Olympic Qualification for Tokyo 2020 begins in WTS Yokohama
The road to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games officially kicks off this weekend as the 2018 World Triathlon Series Yokohama event begins the two-year Olympic qualification period for triathlon. In the third stop of the Series, elites will battle it out in the second Olympic-distance course of the season with both 2017 WTS Yokohama race winners Flora Duffy (BER) and Mario Mola (ESP) returning to reclaim their crown. Yokohama will also host the first stop of the 2018 World Paratriathlon Series with all races beginning Saturday, May 12.
In the third stop of the 2017 World Triathlon Series the elites triathletes head to Japan to return to the familiar event of the 2018 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama, which this year will also mark the start of the road to Tokyo 2020 Olympics. With the elite women racing over an Olympic distance, and only two weeks after Flora Duffy‘s “coronation” on her own country, 52 women will try to get the first ranking points on the long and exciting road to Tokyo 2020.
Topping the women’s start list will be indeed the Bermudian Flora Duffy, who has had a month of April that will be hard to forget. Duffy claimed gold in the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Australia, with a solid performance, to then shine as only she can do and executed a perfect race to claim the first-ever WTS Bermuda 15 days ago, with thousands of spectators cheering her name.
With that in mind, the double World Champion will have to remember that the course in Yokohama is not as hard as the streets of Bermuda, but is quite technical and slippery when wet, so she will have to demonstrate her magnificent bike skills to try to be, once more, on the podium in Yokohama.
But possibly Duffy’s biggest threat to her crown this year is going to come from the local triathletes. With Juka Sato, Juko Takahashi, Juri Ide and Ai Ueda toeing the start line in their home nation, the Japanese will be one strong squad to beat, and have shown in the last couple of races that their bike skills and running style have improved consistently.
Another strong squad aiming for glory in Yokohama will be the Americans, with again a really strong team headed by the current Series leader, Kirsten Kasper, and the bronze medallist in WTS Bermuda, Katie Zaferes. Both of them strong bikers and phenomenal runners, they are among the few athletes capable to keep up with the frantic rhythm that Flora will most likely impose since the first strokes of the swim. Also a great swimmer, Summer Cook can be included in this pack.
For the third stop of the 2018 World Triathlon Series, our triathletes return to Japan and the familiar surroundings of Yokohama city. Fittingly, this year’s race also marks the start of the road to Tokyo 2020 Olympics and, with that in mind, a packed men’s field is once more set to battle it out in the Harbour for one of the elites’ favourite events on the WTS calendar.
Wearing the number one bib as current Series Leader will once again be the Spaniard Mario Mola. After securing second place in the year’s first WTS in Abu Dhabi, Mola finished in fourth place on the beautiful yet extraordinarily tricky Bermuda course, but the double world champion looks confident in retaining the ranking leadership as he goes for a third straight win in the Japanese city.
Mola will have to keep an eye on teammate Fernando Alarza, who proved in Bermuda that he should never be overlooked in Olympic-distance races. Alarza finished sixth after a frantic sprint to the line, beaten by mere tenths of a second by another one to watch in Yokohama, Frenchman Dorian Coninx. France’s U23 World Championship silver medallist is one of the stronger athletes through the run section, which can always prove decisive in this race.
Most eyes will certainly be set on the rising stars to emerge from Bermuda: the Norwegians. There, they made history by becoming the first team ever to secure a clean sweep of a WTS podium, and Yokohama will see two of those stars racing again come Saturday; Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden.
After finishing in second place in the last four WTS races he has completed, Blummenfelt will be vying to get the first gold medal of his career in Yokohama. Last year he won the bronze here, and the revamped harbour-side bike course should suit him down to the ground. More than likely to be riding with him on the bike will be teammate Iden, also hoping for a return to the podium. The younger of the Norwegians at still only 23 years of age, he has had a phenomenal start to his season, improving on 9th place in WTS Abu Dhabi with third in Bermuda.
For the second year running, the best paratriathletes from around the world will compete in the ITU World Paratriathlon Series this weekend, with the first event of the revamped calendar taking place on Saturday in the Japanese city of Yokohama. Paratriathletes will compete on a sprint distance race along the beautiful Yamashita Park.
Saturday 12 May – 10:06 UTC/GMT +9 Click here for the time in your area
Saturday 12 May – 13:06 UTC/GMT +9 Click here for the time in your area
Saturday 12 May – 06:55 UTC/GMT +9 Click here for the time in your area
Follow all the events live with timing and text updates, at triathlonlive.tv and on twitter at @triathlonlive.
The Yokohama WPS will be streamed live and for freeat triathlonlive.tv/yokohama and World Triathlon’s Facebook page.
Swim (1.5km) – Two-laps for a 1500m swim in the sea near Osambashi pier.
Bike (40km) – Nine laps of 4.45km laps that begin and end in Yamashita park.The bike snakes around the giant Cosmo Clock 21 Ferris Wheel and Yokohama’s waterfront.
Run (10km) – Four 2.5km laps around the Kanagawa Prefectural Government Building
2017 Flora Duffy (BER) Mario Mola (ESP)
2016 Gwen Jorgensen (USA) Mario Mola (ESP)
2015 Gwen Jorgensen (USA) Javier Gomez (ESP)
2014 Gwen Jorgensen (USA) Javier Gomez (ESP)
2013 Gwen Jorgensen (USA) Jonathan Brownlee (GBR)
2012 Lisa Norden (SWE) Joao Silva (POR)
2011 Andrea Hewitt (NZL) Joao Silva (POR)
2009 Lisa Norden (SWE) Jan Frodeno (GER)
Text: ITU Online Media Centre
Feature image: Korupt Vision