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© Wagner Araujo / ITU Media / triathlon.org
Conclusions from Rio...?
Posted by: TriJuggo
Posted on: Wednesday 12th August 2015


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What insight did the Rio Test Event provide for the 2016 Olympic Games?

Earlier in the season Alex Juggins wrote a feature for us entitled 'A New World Order?', suggesting that despite the results of the first WTS event of the season in Abu Dhabi, it was a little early to write off the old guard just yet. Since then we've witnessed another six WTS races, and the Brownlee-Brownlee-Gomez trio have won five of them... so that view proved correct.

Alex is back, this time looking ahead to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, following the recent hosting of the Rio Test Event on the Olympic course.

What conclusions can we take from Rio 2015 looking ahead to the big one next year... and who is he predicting for the podium positions, one year out?


Conclusions from Rio 2015?

The first weekend of August saw the world's elite short course triathletes (well, most of them), descend on Rio de Janeiro for a race entitled ‘2015 Rio de Janeiro ITU World Olympic Qualification Event'. In theory, the event presented a mouth-watering opportunity for triathlon fans the world over to observe the 2016 medal contenders battle it out on the Olympic course, a year before the main event. In reality, apart from the athletes themselves, coaching staff, a few lucky travelers and no doubt some bemused locals, most were unable to watch the race unfold in real time.

Despite not being part of the World Triathlon Series, with zero prize money on offer, no live coverage, and also speculation as to the quality and safety of the water – all of which, inevitably, have been the source of widespread debate – the race still had plenty riding on it from the athletes' point of view. Amid the media furore, there were Olympic points to be won, scalps to be had and gauntlets to be firmly laid down.

Clearly, the lack of adequate coverage of the race makes the work of the amateur triathlon pundit (even that's grossly overstating my credentials), all the more difficult. But I'm not here to moan – plenty of people have done that already. Instead, I intend to use this as an opportunity to pause for reflection and examine what conclusions, if any, we can draw from this season's action so far, including the recent rumble in Rio.

The Men

Gomez still has another big Olympic Gold medal assault left in him. Of that, there can be no doubt. The Spaniard is the most consistent racer on the circuit, he won the test event and has proven time and time again that he can race well in the heat. Arguably, with the Brownlees struggling for form and fitness, Gomez is currently the man to beat in Rio. For the record, I'm still convinced that a fully-fit Alistair Brownlee is the best in the world.

©Delly Carr / ITU Media

Murray and Mola still have work to do in the water if they want to contend. Both men posted decent run splits in Rio - Murray in particular - and both have shown that they are capable of mixing it with, and beating, the big boys in a straight-up foot race. However, as evidenced in the test event, both men are all too often on the wrong side of an insurmountable gap after the swim, which will leave them struggling to get a medal in a field which – fingers crossed – should contain two in-form Brownlees, Gomez and Vincent Luis, all of whom are too fast on the bike and run to give any kind of advantage to.

©Delly Carr / ITU Media

2016's outcome is far more difficult to predict than London. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but even so, few would argue that 2012's result was a surprise. AB, JB and Gomez had such a stranglehold on Olympic Distance triathlon in the years preceding the race that it would have taken something extraordinary for the trio not to have all been on the podium. Indeed, the race played out exactly as many would have predicted – the three main protagonists breaking free early in the run and putting a chunk of time into the remainder of the field, and even a time penalty couldn't prevent Jonny from joining his brother on the podium.

©Delly Carr / ITU Media

This time around, however, there is more uncertainty. Will either or both of the Brownlees remain injury-free for long enough to get fully race fit? Admittedly, there was similar concern over Alistair's Achilles prior to 2012 and look how that turned out... Will Murray and Mola be able to make the front bike pack and mount a serious medal challenge? What will the ever-improving Frenchman, Vincent Luis, be capable of in a year's time? Assuming that everybody gets to the start line in good shape, we have six men with a decent shot and a few more who will be looking to throw their name into the mix.

©Wagner Araujo / ITU Media

The Women

Gwen Jorgensen is unquestionably the one to beat. Hardly going out on a limb here, I know, but it has to be said. Jorgensen has looked (and been...) unbeatable all season and has, rather impressively, turned herself into the 'complete' triathlete as well. Her running pedigree has never been in doubt, but there have previously been question marks over her swim and bike prowess. These questions have now been answered. Repeatedly. Jorgensen routinely emerges from the swim in pole position, and is thus able to cycle pressure-free in the front pack before unleashing her run. It's all looked fairly straightforward. For anyone trying to work out how to beat her, Gwen's transformation into the all-round triathlete poses a serious challenge.

©Wagner Araujo / ITU Media

But, don't write the British girls off just yet. One of the most pleasing elements of recent racing on the circuit has been the emergence of Vicky Holland as a consistent podium contender, coupled with the return to form of Non Stanford. You get the feeling that these two are drawing inspiration from one another, which is bringing out the best in both of them at the moment. This upward trend continued in Rio, where Stanford proved that she isn't a million miles off (more like 120m, based on the time gap), matching Jorgenson over 10k and, perhaps more importantly, she had a decent swim and wasn't left playing catch up. And I haven't even mentioned Jodie Stimpson or Helen Jenkins yet, who we all hope will be back to their best before long.

©Wagner Araujo / ITU Media

Remember Nicola Spirig? She's the reigning Olympic Champion but we've seen precious little of the Swiss star on the World Triathlon Sereis of late. In fairness to Spirig, having a baby is right up there on my list of acceptable excuses not to compete in triathlons. That said, when Spirig has toed the start line in recent months, she has been in imperious form, as evidenced by crushing the field in winning the inaugural European Games in Baku to secure her 2016 selection, and win yet another European Championship title in Geneva. Spirig elected not to race in Rio, so we are left to wait a little longer for her much-anticipated duel with Jorgensen.

©Wagner Araujo / ITU Media

Predictions?

Not one to shy away from a challenge, I'll make my 2016 medal predictions right here, right now.

  1. Alistair Brownlee
  2. Javier Gomez
  3. Jonathon Brownlee
  1. Gwen Jorgensen
  2. Non Stanford
  3. Nicola Spirig

©Wagner Araujo / ITU Media


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