Olympic Fever Is Starting

Olympic Fever Is Starting

The pinnacle of ‘short course’ triathlon is winning Olympic gold. Kristian Blumenfelt and Flora Duffy befell this honour in Tokyo. However, as soon as the Olympics in Tokyo were wrapped up the sights were already set on the next one in Paris. Now, 5 months out, Olympic fever is at a high again.

Don’t let the term ‘short course triathlon’ fool you. It takes almost as long as a marathon to finish one and the 1500m swim distance equals the longest swim competition in the pool. Triathlon is a real endurance sport that requires years and years of dedicated training to get to the level of the athletes competing in it.

The qualification process for one of the 110 Olympic start slots (55 men + 55 women) is an equally complex test of endurance that started in May 2022 and finishes this year on 27 May. There was direct qualification through a number of events in 2022 and 2023, notably the World Series final, World Championships and Paris test event. And then there is the route of qualification via the Olympic individual or team ranking. We’re not going to bore you with more details, other than that there is a limit to how many athletes each country can send. The maximum is 3 per gender per country, for the most successful countries.

This last rule puts a few big triathlon nations in a difficult position. Some prominent athletes look they are going to miss out:

  • France’s ex-World Champion, Vincent Luis, has been injury plagued and is being outperformed by Dorian Coninx, Pierre Le Corre and Leo Bergere.
  • Norwegian multiple ‘long course’ champion, Gustav Iden is facing stiff competition. Olympic champion Kristian Blumenfelt and Casper Storness are in pole position to qualify for Norway
  • USA’s former world champions and Olympic medalists Katie Zaferes and Gwen Jorgensen still have to qualify, and so do Taylor Spivey, Summer Rapaport and Kirsten Kasper, all medal candidates. The future of USA Triathlon, Taylor Knibb is the only US athlete that has already secured her spot.
  • Great Britain could similarly feature 5 athletes in the top-10 with Olympic medalists Georgia Taylor-Brown, Jess Learmonth and Vicky Holland are still to qualify, and so does upcoming star Kate Waugh. Only Beth Potter has secured her spot.
  • Also Team GB’s Johnny Brownlee still has to qualify, with Tokyo Olympics runner up Alex Yee having taken up the first spot, and Barclay Izzard currently ranking higher.

The World Triathlon Series with lots of ranking points up for grabs is starting in Abu Dhabi on 8-9 March. Expect a stacked athlete field and a very hot competition with Olympic tickets at stake.

The Olympic year has also an impact on other disciplines in the sport:

  • T100 Triathlon Series’ stellar cast will not include the Norwegian champions Kristian Blumenfelt and Gustav Iden, who are focusing on the Olympic qualification and race. A wild card for a race in the post-Olympics races is a real possibility.
  • Ironman and Challenge will see fewer short course athletes venturing into the middle distance during the Olympic Qualification process, as well.
  • Supertri – formerly Super League Triathlon – will struggle to attract the big stars in short course triathlon for their Arena Games and Supertri Series in 2024.

Finally, let’s have a look at the medal contenders for the Olympics. Will it be the established garde to take the top spots or will a new generation take over?

The women:
Katie Zaferes, Gwen Jorgensen and Flora Duffy have all dominated the triathlon scene for periods in the past decade. All well in their thirties they feel the heat from the next generation. Are Taylor Knibb, Cassandre Beaugrand or Beth Potter the next big thing?

The men:
Past champions Johnny Brownlee, Vincent Luis may not even make it to the Olympics. The names everyone will be looking out for are Kristian Blumenfelt, Alex Yee, Hayden Wilde and Leo Bergere, but the men’s field is deep and wide.

The next four months may tell us something about the athletes’ form leading up to the big race. But who will have the form of the day?


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