WTCS Yokohama and Olympic qualifying
This weekend's WTCS opener in Yokohama is a critical race for Olympic qualificationPhoto by: Kevin Mackinnon
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We are only a few days away from the first World Triathlon Championship Series event of the season. The world’s best short-distance triathletes are currently in Yokohama, Japan and will take part in the Olympic distance triathlon on Saturday, May 15. This is a very important triathlon as we are only a few months away from the Tokyo Olympics, so there is very little opportunity left for triathletes to qualify.
There will be live coverage on TriathlonLIVE.tv
The two Canadians who will be on the starting line are Joanna Brown and Amélie Kretz (pictured). Brown is currently 19th in the world rankings and Kretz is 110th. However, no Canadian men will be on the starting line. Kretz has been training for several months in the United States with the Ian O’brien coaching group. Kretz took part in the Challenge Triathlon at Daytona in December and the Clermont and Sarasota triathlons this spring.
Tyler Mislawhuk is Canada’s best hope in the men’s race at the Olympics. He won the Tokyo Test Event in 2019, demonstrating that he can perform in the hot and humid conditions of Tokyo. Mislawchuk trained for several months in Hawaii with Quebec’s Alexis Lepage, who hopes to qualify for the Olympic Games, too. Canadian Matt Sharpe is also a Canadian prospect. Sharpe made the decision last year to leave the Canadian team’s training group to train with Lance Watson in Victoria.
Five Frenchmen will be on the starting line this Saturday: Vincent Luis, Léo Bergere, Dorian Coninx, Pierre Le Corre and the young triathlete Louis Vitiello, who will participate in his first WTCS event. Luis is the best French triathlete and one of the favourites to win the triathlon, so it will be especially interesting to see who will be the second French triathlete at the finish. Three French women will also be present: Cassandre Beaugrand, who is one of the favourites to win the triathlon, Leonie Periault and Emilie Morier.
Great Britain has already selected four triathletes who will represent the country at the Olympic Games: Jonny Brownlee, Vicky Holland, Georgia-Taylor Brown and Jess Learmonth. So Beth Potter, who recently unofficially broke the world record over 5 km by running a very impressive time of 14 minutes and 41 seconds, will not represent England at the Olympic Games (as a triathlete, anyway), even if she is currently considered one of the best triathletes in the world.
On the men’s, Alex Yee, Jonny Brownlee and Thomas Bishop will be on the starting line. Jonny’s brother Alistair will not take part in the Yokohama triathlon, but will be present at the Leeds triathlon on June 6. Yee, J. Brownlee and Bishop will have to try to accumulate as many points as possible this weekend in order to have three male triathletes present at the Olympic Games. Although Alistair won the London and Rio Olympics, he is not guaranteed to compete at the Tokyo Olympics. His compatriot Alex Yee is perhaps the best runner among the triathletes, and could therefore take Alistair’s place if they fail to get three places on the starting line at the Olympic Games.
At the women’s level, the United States is dominant. Seven women will be on the starting line and positions 1 to 3 are assigned to American women: Katie Zaferes, Taylor Spivey and Summer Rappaport. Rappaport has already qualified for the Olympic Games thanks to her fifth-place finish at the Tokyo Test Event in August, 2019.
Five American men will start: Morgan Pearson, Matthew McElroy, Ben Kanute, Eli Hemming and Kevin McDowell. Pearson and McElroy are the two triathletes who, in my opinion, have the best chance of representing the USA. Pearson completed his first triathlon in 2017 and his progress has been meteoric ever since. Pearson and McElory were runners before they discovered triathlon, so if they are among the leading bike riders, they have a good chance of finishing in the top five. To secure a place on the starting line at the Olympic Games they must finish in the top eight and be the first American. Ben Kanute is a more complete triathlete, but he is not as good a runner as his compatriots. This will make it more difficult for him to qualify.
So it will be a very exciting triathlon to watch, not only to see who will win the race, but also to see who will manage to qualify for the Olympic Games.