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Rio 2016: The Olympic triathlon qualification process broken down

Rio de Janeiro

Which Canadian triathletes will be lining up for Rio in August?

Since January, we’ve been giving updates on the Canadian triathletes with the potential to qualify. The team hasn’t been set and there are just under three more months for athletes to earn a spot.

What does it take for Canadian triathletes to qualify? TMC spoke to Alan Carlsson of Triathlon Canada to break down the complicated process.

When is the qualification period?

The Rio qualification process began in mid May of 2014 and ends on May 16th, 2016 just after the ITU World Triathlon in Yokohama. There are still three WTS events before the qualification period ends. The first is Abu Dhabi coming up this weekend followed by Gold Coast and finally Yokohama.

Delly Carr/ITU : 2014 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama
Delly Carr/ITU : 2014 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama

How many triathletes can qualify for the Olympics?

There are 55 men’s and women’s spots on the Rio start line. Not all countries can send the same number of triathletes. Countries can send a maximum of three men and three women if they rank among the top eight countries in the world, according to the ITU’s ranking system. Otherwise, they can send a maximum of two of each. There will be countries who may only manage to send one male or one female athlete if they haven’t earned enough points on the ranking system.

The countries’ National Olympic Committees earn spots based on their top triathletes’ performances. It is up to them individually to determine which eligible athletes will take those spots. For example, Triathlon Canada has specific criteria for eligibility. Their criteria applies to athletes who meet the ITU criteria, placing among the top 140 athletes on the ITU Olympic qualification list, the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Series Ranking and the ITU Points List.

There is always one spot reserved for a male and female athlete from the host country, as long as that country has earned a top 140 spot on the ITU Olympic qualification list.

Who has qualified for Canada?

No specific athletes have qualified yet for the Olympics. During the qualification process, triathletes earn spots for their country, not for themselves. Right now, Canada has earned one men’s spot and three women’s spots at the Games but this will all change over the course of the next few months with the WTS and world cup races.

It is up to Triathlon Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee to decide which athletes they will send. They look at things like past results and current performance level when making the decision. Just because someone earns a top Canadian performance at ITU races does not necessarily mean they will get a spot.

“One important aspect of the process is that going to the Olympics is never just for the experience,” Carlsson says. “In the end, it comes down to who is likely to perform the best at those Games.”

Canada has a good handful of male and female triathletes with a shot at Rio. Among them are Tyler Mislawchuk, Kyle Jones, Andrew Yorke and Russell Pennock on the men’s side. For the women, Paula Findlay hopes to make a repeat trip to the Olympics and Kirsten Sweetland, Amelie Kretz, Ellen Pennock, Sarah-Anne Brault and Dominika Jamnicky are all contenders.