Olympic triathlon preview: Men’s individual race very tough to predict

(picture: Press Release)

At 6:30 AM Monday morning local time (Sunday, 23:30 CEST and 17:30 EST) the men’s triathlon will get started in Tokyo, and one thing is certain – we’re in for some exciting racing. The race takes place at Odaiba Park, a small island in Tokyo Bay between Koto City and Shinagawa City. The individual races at the Tokyo Olympics feature a 1.5 km swim that includes a 1 km and 500 m lap that starts on a pontoon and heads towards Bird Island. That’s followed by a technical, eight-lap bike course that features a few 180 degree turns. The four-lap run course circles the park before finishing next to Tokyo Bay. The start times for all the events have been moved earlier because of the expected stifling heat in Tokyo – whoever is going to win will need to be able to handle the expected high heat and humidity.

As would be expected at an event like the Olympics, picking a favorite in the stacked field is practically impossible. One would expect that we’ll see the likes of Henri Schoeman (RSA) and Vincent Luis (FRA) amongst the leaders out of the swim, but the chances of seeing a small breakaway group get clear that might include athletes like Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) and Jonas Schomberg (GER) early in the bike seems slim. Even if such a group was able to ride away in the early stages, one would imagine that the strong-riding Norwegian trio of Kristian Blummenfelt, Gustav iden and Casper Stornes are likely to tow the chasers up within a few laps of the bike.

So, if we see a decent-sized group hit T2 together, who are likely to be the men to watch heading into a 10 km footrace? Luis would certainly be one of those – the two-time defending world champion was 11th at the 2012 Games in London and seventh in Rio, so he’s dealt with Olympic pressure before. There are a number of very strong runners in the field, though, who are certainly capable of taking the win, too. Canadian Tyler Mislawchuk took the Tokyo Test Event in 2019 and will have teammate Matthew Sharpe in the race to help get him to the front heading into T2. That strategy worked to excellent effect in the test event and at the World Triathlon Cup Huatulco. Schomberg has been surging out to the front at races all year long – look for him to make a similar move in Tokyo.

Blummenfelt raced up a storm earlier in the season, using his incredible strength to drive the pace on the bike and then power clear on the run. Can he make that strategy work against all of the best athletes in the world? Jelle Geens took second to Blummenfelt at WTCS Yokohama, so look for him to be part of this competitive medal-chasing group, too. Alex Yee (GBR) looked simply masterful in taking WTCS Leeds last month, so if he’s in the mix at the start of the run he’ll for sure be one to watch, as will Morgan Pearson (USA), who has been running extremely well this year with a third-place finish in Yokohama to go along with a runner-up finish in Leeds. Jelle Geens took second in Yokohama – another name to add to the ever-growing list. Add to that mix some of the classic fast-finishers in the field like Olympic bronze and silver medalist Brownlee, Spain’s Mario Mola and Javier Gomez, along with Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) … it all adds up to what we talked about before – a very exciting race.