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Tokyo 2020 Olympic Triathlon: Women’s Preview


The wait is nearly over. On Tuesday 27 July, 6.30am local
time, 55 women will dive into Odaiba Bay, each having
navigated their own unique path to reaching the Tokyo 2020
Olympic start line over the past five years. Among them are
experienced favourites, talented Games debutants and
compelling stories of battling the odds to achieve their
dreams. Now, all that is left is to string together the best
swim-bike-run of their lives in a bid to achieve the result
they crave.

The Tokyo 2020 course poses some sizeable
challenges. The water temperature is likely to be in the
high 20Cs for the two-lap, 1.5km swim. The humidity could be
pushing 100% as they head out onto a flat, technical 40km
bike with 8 laps in total, where the wind could whip through
the high rises without warning. The air temperature is
likely to be hovering around 30C as they rack their bikes
and head out on to the 10km run.

Throw in all the
pressures of an Olympic competition delayed by 12 months and
one of the most competitive women’s fields in the
sport’s 21-year Games history and the unpredictability, as
well as the entertainment, will be off the charts. With just
five races making up the Olympic Qualification Period
leading in to Tokyo, where do some of the pre-race
favourites sit in terms of readiness to meet the challenge?
See how to watch the Games where you are here.


Even
with just a single World Triathlon race so far in 2021, Flora
Duffy
will undoubtedly be one to watch. Finishing out of
the medals in 8th at Rio 2016, the same year she won the
first of her two world titles, will be all the motivation
she needs to deliver this time around. Duffy has already
said that Paris 2024 is not in her plans and Tokyo 2020 will
be a final shot at that elusive Olympic gold. After coming
through a gruelling WTCS Leeds in 4th place and knowing how
well she can perform in the heat, her confidence, like her
ability to deliver across all three segments and finish
strongly, will be sky high.

Duffy’s bike prowess
will be matched by Switzerland’s Nicola
Spirig
, the Swiss star heading to an unprecedented fifth
Olympic Triathlon start line. Champion in 2012 after
that sprint finish with Lisa Norden, silver medalist
in 2016 after that battle with Gwen Jorgensen, Spirig
is still in incredible shape, has peerless experience and
all the skills to push for a history-making third Olympic
medal in the sport if she can save some legs and be in the
front pack off the bike.

A strong trio of American
women on the start all make compelling, varied cases for
becoming Olympic medalists. Summer
Rappaport
simply loves to race in Japan, scooping two
Series silvers and two World Cup golds as well as Olympic
qualification on these shores. Her biking has come a long
way, her swim and run have always been her greatest assets,
and after confirming her spot back in 2019, she has been
able to focus on Olympic readiness, delivering the fastest
10km split so far this year: 33m24s in Yokohama.

Taylor
Knibb
is a former Junior and U23 World Champion and this
year showed she can cut it at the very highest level, too,
with victory in the season opener in Yokohama. A powerhouse
on the bike, if she has the run speed over the closing
stages, she will be a threat. Finally, Katie
Zaferes
was crowned 2019 World Champion after a
brilliant run of results and, following the disruptive ups
and downs of a difficult Qualification Period, has finally
been able to zoom in on exactly what is needed to fulfil her
Olympic potential.

The British team have similar
firepower across all three squad members, Georgia
Taylor-Brown
perhaps the biggest name as well as biggest
unknown in terms of form having had to wait for her
opportunity to hit the start line in 2021 through illness
and injury. The 2020 World Champion has an ability to keep
calm in the most demanding circumstances but will need to
focus on the small details after so long away from the blue
carpet.

Taylor-Brown’s training partner Jessica
Learmonth
has also had some injury niggles over the past
six months but came back to show why she is still a
contender with a superb silver at WTCS Leeds. Always a
pace-setter in the water and on the bike, Learmonth is as
tough as they come and likely to be pressing for a podium
just like teammate and 2018 World Champion Vicky
Holland
, as long as she can still be in striking
distance out of T2 to use her signature run.

Australia
will have three women on the start, with Ashleigh
Gentle
heading to her second Games eager to build on a
26th place finish at Rio 2016. Travel restrictions have
meant Gentle has been in Australia for the best part of two
years, but will have wasted no time working on exactly what
she needs to challenge in Tokyo.

Cassandre
Beaugrand
and Leonie
Periault
lead the line for France, the former having
landed a World Series gold in Hamburg in 2018 and finished
in the top 10 this year in Leeds and undoubtedly capable of
a rapid and potentially decisive run split.

Japan’s
Niina
Kishimoto
and Yuko
Takahashi
will be hoping to use home advantage to their
favour despite the lack of crowds to lift them. Takahashi
has great depth of experience to call upon, while Kishimoto
has a good track record in the heat but may struggle to keep
in touch with the likes of Spirig and Duffy on the 40km
bike.

Maya
Kingm
a will be another pushing the pace across those
40km on the bike. A superb swimmer, too, Netherlands’
latest hotshot was the surprise star of Leeds last month and
heads into the Games as the 2021 Series Leader. The
25-year-old is full of quiet confidence that this could be a
huge year for her, while teammate Rachel
Klamer
heads to her third Games hoping to build on 10th
place in Rio

Brazil’s 2019 Pan-American Games silver
medalist Vittoria
Lopes
is also likely to be among the fastest through the
water, while Italy’s Alice
Betto
has already delivered a brilliant race on the
Odaiba Bay course, with silver at the Test Event two years
ago.

Rarely to be found far from a Series top 10,
Canada’s Joanna
Brown
has bronze-winning experience from the
Commonwealth Games three years ago and more recently a
brilliant third in Bermuda in 2019, finishing one place
ahead of Austria’s Lisa
Perterer
who could thrive on racing in the heat of Tokyo
and brings London 2012 experience with her to
Japan.

The ASICS World Triathlon development team will
be represented by Egypt’s first Olympic triathlete Basmla
Elsalamoney
, Argentina’s Romina
Biagioli
and Estonia’s Kaidi
Kivioja
, while Chilean legend Barbara
Riveros
is one of the greats to have come through the
programme and finds herself on the fourth Olympic start line
of an illustrious career.

See the full women’s start
list here.

© Scoop Media

 



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