The sight of Kristian Blummenfelt throwing up on the finish line after he took the gold medal today said it all. The Norwegian is renowned for his hard training and his ability to push harder then the rest of his competition. On paper he shouldn’t have been able to outrun Great Britain’s Alex Yee, but the stats sheets get thrown out the window with 2.5 km of running to go at the Olympic Games, and Blummenfelt simply out-gutted Yee and bronze medalist Hayden Wilde to give Norway its first Olympic triathlon medal.
Luis leads the swim
Heading into the Games the man who seemed best equipped to deal with a variety of race strategies was two-time defending world champion Vincent Luis from France. Things seemed even more likely to go his way as he pushed the pace early in the swim. After a bizarre false start that saw about half the field head off early, the men restarted and it was Chile’s Diego Moya who pressed the pace early on. Towards the end of the first loop Luis made his move to the front, pressing the pace up onto the pontoon at the end of the first 950 m loop. Behind him were Moya, Russian Dmitry Polyanski and Rio bronze medalist Henri Schoeman.
Luis kept up the pressure through the rest of the swim, leading the way into T1 and appearing to be on track to set up a small breakaway group. At first it looked like he’d be off with four others, but Canada’s Tyler Mislawchuk was amongst a group of five more who managed to bridge up to the five leaders. That group of 10 would be pared down to nine in short order – Luis, Polyanski, Schoeman, Jonathan Brownlee (GBR), Jonas Schomburg (GER), Marten van Riel (BEL), Kenji Nener (JPN), Mislawchuk and Taylor Reid (NZL).
The group was only able to stay clear for a few laps before the huge chase group reeled them in, putting a bunch of 37 in front of the race. Luxembourg’s Stefan Zachaus took a flyer for a bit, but the big group led by Canada’s Matthew Sharpe reeled him back in. Then Switzerland’s Andrea Salvisberg decided it was time to give things a go as the group appeared happy to trail Sharpe around the course at a pedextrian pace.
Salvisberg would rack his bike in first, but his lead was just 14 seconds. Towards the end of the bike all the scrambling for the front of the pack started to derail the Canadian strategy – instead of Sharpe hammering at the front and helping Mislawchuk lead the way into T2, the Canadian winner of the Tokyo Test event found himself in a big group as he started the run.
Then there were three
Things quickly started to spread out on the run, though, as Yee started to use his prodigious running talent to move to the front and spread things out. he was joined at the front by Blummenfelt and Wilde. Through the first loop they had some company in the form of Brownlee, American Kevin McDowell, Switzerland’s Max Studer and France’s Dorian Conninx, but the group gradually whittled down until it became clear that the medals would be decided amongst just those three.
Blummenfelt made his move with about two km to go, pulling clear of the two other men and pushing hard for the line. Obviously suffering, the Norwegian just kept pushing the pace right to the line, taking the win in 1:45:04, 11 seconds ahead of Yee and 20 seconds ahead of Wilde.
Van Riel would cross the linein fourth, with Brownlee taking fifth.
A disappointed Mislawchuk would finish 15th, the same spot he took in Rio four years ago.
“No good on the run,” the 26-year-old from Oak Bluff, Manitoba told CBC after the race. “I am super angry with myself. I just didn’t have it on the run. I am really disappointed … I had some cramping on the run, and I couldn’t run as fast as I’ve trained. I just couldn’t go any faster.”
Sharpe, who was in the race to help Mislawchuk, finished 49th, the final finisher of the day.
You can find results from the race here.