In a race that brought as much excitement and anticipation as perhaps the Olympic Games themselves, the ITU World Triathlon Yokohama concluded the two-year triathlon Olympic qualification period with USA’s Gwen Jorgensen claiming her fourth consecutive Yokohama title with ease, while Mario Mola (ESP) scored his third win of the season, but his first-ever in Yokohama.
While her second-place finish in the Gold Coast event ended a 12-WTS race winning streak that she started in Yokohama in 2014, Jorgensen returned to the top of the podium with the fastest run split ever in Yokohama history – 32:15.
Producing a consistently strong performance throughout the whole competition that saw her among the leaders in the swim and bike that set her up for a flawless run execution, Jorgensen was able to reclaim her spot on the top of the WTS podium. The victory also granted her the Yokohama title for the fourth consecutive year, a feat no other elite athlete has done been able to do at the same venue.
Earning the silver medal was Aussie Ashleigh Gentle. Gentle constructed a monster of a race to come from behind and ultimately take the second spot on the podium. Her silver medal also allowed her to demonstrate a strong case going forward with her national federation’s Olympic selection for the final two Australian women’s spots.
Despite being 30 seconds down on the swim, Gentle and Ai Ueda worked to pull up on the bike. Heading out of T2, Ueda and Gentle were able to get a wide enough gap and stride away from the others. Sticking together until the final metres, Gentle had a little bit more left in her legs to get ahead of Ueda and grab the silver while Ueda followed behind in third.
On the Olympic qualification front, Lisa Norden’s 22nd place finish was enough to keep her in the European new flag quota spot. Unless the USA opts to use its final women’s spot as a discretionary position, Katie Zaferes finished the Olympic qualification period as the highest athlete on the rankings list outside of previously-qualified Jorgensen and Sarah True. Amelie Kretz’ incredible eighth-place finish meant she moved ahead of Maryia Shoret, who was the last athlete to qualify for the Olympics via rankings which bodes well for Canada.
In a series of firsts, Spaniard Mario Mola was finally able to capture the gold medal in Japan at the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama. The other two podium spots were claimed by Mexico’s Crisanto Grajales and Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, both of whom graced the WTS podium for the very first time. Their medals also meant that Mexico and Norway were represented on a World Triathlon Series podium for the first time in history.
Heading out onto the bike, it looked as though different groups were going to form but after the first lap the course was simply a giant swelter of cyclists as the pack tallied well over 50 men. It never decreased in size during the course of the nine laps, with the second transition zone becoming a gathering of all contenders simultaneously.
Mola executed on his run right out of the T2 gate and was able to stride his way into his third WTS victory of the season. Also capitalizing on the run was Grajales who captured the silver medal when he overtook Blummenfelt in the final kilometres of the course to advance into second place. Meanwhile, Blummenfelt was left to finish off the day with an impressive third.
The big topic on many athletes’ minds was where they needed to finish to qualify for the Rio Olympics. USA’s Joe Maloy and Ben Kanute clocked 11th- and 17th-place finishes, strong enough performances for the USA to name them to the Olympic team. While Greg Billington didn’t finish, his standing was high enough with USA Triathlon’s own rankings that he, too, was included in the USA Olympic team.
While Jason Wilson didn’t improve his ranking, his biggest rival Manuel Huerta didn’t race so Wilson should theoretically make his first Olympic Team and become the first triathlete from Barbados to go to the Olympics. A 29th place finish from Ivan Ivanov proved not enough to overtake Thomas Springer for the European new flag quota spot.
The biggest points mover of the day was Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN) whose 10th place finish saw him surge to 2781 points, moving up ahead of teammates Andrew Yorke and Kyle Jones. While Canada’s two positions are intact, selectors now have to choose which of the three men to take to Rio.