Variety and depth have been the catch words of the ITU World Triathlon Series so far this season with five different athletes on the podium in just two events. You can expect a few more new faces to emerge as the eight-race series visits Yokohama in Japan this weekend. Joao Silva, who is the only athlete to podium in both Auckland and San Diego, returns to defend his 2011 and 2012 titles in the men’s race, while the women’s race is open for the taking.
The downtown course is a stunner, taking in one of the largest urban national parks in Japan, Yamashita Park, offering stunning views of the Bay Bridge and Minato Mirai and superb spectator vantage points around the multi-lap course on both the bike and run.
The women’s race is about as hard to predict as the results at the opening two races of the season. If Gwen Jorgensen (USA) repeats her stunning form from San Diego, she will be hard to beat. But any drop in form will open the door for a host of contenders, led by the well-performed Emma Moffatt (AUS), who so bravely led late into the action in San Diego despite cramping in both hamstrings.
Maaike Caelers (NED) was third last year behind the incredible sprint finish between Lisa Norden (SWE) and Anne Haug (GER) and will fancy her chances of another podium with neither of those two on the start line this year. A victory for Caelers will see her move up the overall rankings in the absence of series leaders Haug and Felicity Abram (AUS).
Jodie Stimpson (GBR) at her best is always a contender and she showed signs of that with a 5th place finish in San Diego after struggling in the cooler Auckland conditions to start the season, while Kate McIlroy (NZL) has quietly been going about training since a season opening 4th place finish in Auckland. The Kiwi was on the podium here in the 2011 race, making her familiar with the environment and conditions.
Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) enjoyed one of her best ever results with 6th in Yokohama last year and will be hoping for a repeat performance. The young Aussie has consistently featured in the top ten over the past year without yet breaking through to the podium.
The Japanese women were surprisingly off the pace last year with no athletes in the top ten and will race with the support of the local fans ringing in their ears to improve on that form. They won’t lack for numbers with Mariko Adachi, Juri Ide (currently third in the overall WTS rankings), Yuka Sato, Yuko Takahashi and Ai Ueda all lining up in front of friends and family.
Click here for the women’s start list
The Brownlee show switches attention to Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) this weekend as the younger of the brothers makes his first WTS appearance of the season after missing San Diego due to injury. With limited race appearances on the schedule, the 23 year old knows he must start strongly in Yokohama.
Javier Gomez (ESP), by contrast, will continue his 100% attendance record this season, looking to bounce back from a disappointing effort in San Diego where he finished in 8th place. Gomez was second here last year when unable to match the run pace of Joao Silva (POR), who himself is back to defend his consecutive titles from 2011 and 2012. Silva looks to continue a consistent start to the season, leading the overall points race after successive podiums to start his 2013 campaign.
Richard Murray (RSA) was 9th here last year, but is now recognised as a genuine podium threat, delivering consistent sub-30 minute times to match the best in the sport. He will look to carry on his good form in San Diego, where he took bronze, with another podium in Yokohama.
The Russians are here in numbers. Andrey Bryukhankov, Dmitry Polyanskiy, Igor Polyanskiy, Denis Vasiliev and Ivan Vasiliev will be a threat if allowed to dictate the pace of the race out of the swim. Polyanskiy sat back slightly on the swim last year, leading to a bronze medal finish.
The Down Under interest includes Ryan Sissons (NZL) and Peter Kerr (AUS) and both have plenty to prove. Sissons has endured a torrid start to his season due to race-time injuries and mechanical failures, while Kerr won the opening World Cup of the year in Mooloolaba and is one of a new generation carrying the expectation of a proud triathlon nation into the season.
The women race at 8.06am on Saturday 11th May, while the men get underway at 11.01am on the same morning. Age group and Paratriathlon events take place on Sunday 12th May. Follow the events live @triathlonlive.