Simon Whitfield and Kyle Jones took another step forward in securing three spots for Canada in men’s triathlon at the Olympic Summer Games. The Canadian duo responded to a lightning-fast pace to finish in the top-15 at the second stop of the World Triathlon Series in San Diego, California on Saturday.
Lifelong friends and training partners, Victoria’s 36-year-old, two-time Olympic medalist, Whitfield, clocked an 11th-place time of 1:49:44, while the 27-year-old Jones, of Oakville, Ont., matched his career-best elite triathlon finish after crossing the line in 12th spot at 1:49:46.
“I had a solid swim, rode conservatively and stayed at one pace on the run,” said Whitfield. “People are running for their lives. It is make or break for them so its very deceptive right now. It was a good race. I was a bit of a one-gear wonder so the next three months will be about finding acceleration speed.”
Whitfield and Jones were two of four Canucks that dove into Mission Bay with 70 of the world’s best triathletes fighting for Olympic spots on San Diego’s spectacular pacific coastline. After a solid 1.5-kilometre swim, Whitfield, Jones and Victoria’s Brent McMahon worked the chase pack to bridge their way to a lead group of riders on the third lap of the 40-kilometre bike portion of the race, setting themselves up for the run of their lives.
“It was fast and furious on the run and I just kept moving my way up the pack,” said Jones, who was 13th at the season-opener in Sydney, Australia last month. “This is a four year plan that has come down to months. Every hour of training counts now and it comes down to who wants it more. I think I want it the most of anyone and I’m trying to show that.”
Determined to earn his first trip to the Olympics, Jones had to overcome some last-minute adversity before the race started. A travel mix up caused him to be late for the pre-race athlete briefing, dropping his start position from 20th to 70th place.
“I have trained too hard over the last three weeks to let that affect me, and I told myself to just stick to the plan,” said Jones. “There are fights within the fights out there right now. Simon (Whitfield) is fighting for his fourth Olympics and I am giving everything I have to get my first. It was a rollercoaster few days, but I’m happy with how it has turned out.”
Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee left the top athletes on the globe to battle amongst themselves for a ticket to his home country for the 2012 Games as he ran away from the field with a golden time of 1:48:47. Switzerland’s Sven Riederer finished in second spot at 1:48:52, while Richard Murray, of South Africa, celebrated the bronze medal with a time of 1:49:01.
Brent McMahon, 31, who controlled the pack of more than 30 athletes for most of the bike course, struggled on the 10-kilometre run to place 29th at 1:50:23. Victoria’s Andrew Russell rounded out the Canadian contingent in 54th with a time of 1:53:39.
Created in 2009, the ITU World Triathlon Series is an innovative series that has the world’s best triathletes compete in eight races around the world. Starting in Sydney, athletes will also compete in the United States, Spain, Austria, Germany, Sweden and Japan before the Grand Final in Auckland, New Zealand. The next stop of the series, and final qualification race for the 2012 Olympic Summer Games, is slated for Madrid, Spain, May 26-27.
Elite Men Results
1. Jonathan Brownlee GBR 1:48:47
2. Sven Riederer SUI +00:06
3. Richard Murray RSA +00:16
4. Mario Mola ESP +00:23
5. Hunter Kemper USA +00:32
6. Ryan Sissons NZL +00:36
7. Tim Don GBR +00:39
8. Bevan Docherty NZL +00:44
9. Manuel Huerta USA +00:46
10. Kris Gemmell NZL +00:54
11. Simon Whitfield CAN +00:59
12. Kyle Jones CAN +01:00
29. Brent McMahon CAN +01:37
30. Chris McCormack AUS +01:39
57. Andrew Russell CAN +4:52