The world’s top triathletes head to Seoul, Korea this weekend for the second round of the 2010 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series, marking only the second time an ITU event has been staged in Korea’s capital. Home to over ten million people, Seoul will be the largest city to host an ITU event in 2010.
The Han River Park in the heart of the Yeoido Financial Centre will act as race headquarters, providing athletes with sweeping views of Seoul’s world-renowned architecture throughout the race. Seoul was recently named the 2010 World Design Capital in recognition of the city’s stunning modern architecture.
Fifty-six women are on the start list for Saturday’s race and none are generating more pre-race buzz than 22-year-old Chilean Barbara Riveros Diaz, who pulled off the surprise win at the Series opener in Sydney. In Seoul, Riveros Diaz will have the opportunity to prove that her upset win Down Under was no fluke. One thing is for certain—if the fast-running Chilean can hang with the front pack off the bike, she’ll be a threat to take the race on the run once again.
As strong as Riveros Diaz was in Sydney, when it comes time to pick a race favourite in the women’s contest, it’s hard to pick anyone but defending ITU World Champion Emma Moffatt of Australia. Moffatt finished third in the Sydney, an impressive accomplishment given that her early season training was slowed by a broken shoulder in February.
But Moffatt won’t be the only Emma from Australia in Seoul, as 2008 Beijing Olympic champion Emma Snowsill looks to make her comeback this weekend. Snowsill has been sidelined with a virus and was forced to sit out the Mooloolaba World Cup and the Series opener in Sydney.
Another to keep an eye on is perennial podium contender Andrea Hewitt of New Zealand, who found herself in the middle of the three-woman sprint to the line in Sydney. Hewitt appears in top form entering this season, after starting off the season with a win at the Oceania Championships in Wellington and a runner-up finish in Sydney.
Others to watch for on Sunday include Sweden’s Lisa Norden, who finished as the runner-up to Moffatt in last year’s world rankings and Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf, who finished ninth in Sydney.
Sixty-five men are set to start in the men’s contest and all eyes are on Kiwi Bevan Docherty, who ran away from the field to win the Series opener four weeks ago. After a disappointing end to the season last year, Docherty will be anxious to score another Series win, which will put the veteran well on the way to bettering his 13th-place world ranking from 2009.
Making things tough for Docherty will be Spaniard Javier Gomez, who finished second in the world rankings last year but was forced to sit out the 2010 Series opener in Sydney due to a hip injury. The hip has since healed and that means Gomez will be looking to make up for lost points in Seoul.
Currently sitting in second in the world rankings is Russian youngster Alexander Brukhankov, who finished just six seconds behind Docherty in Sydney and posted the day’s fastest run split. While the Russian has yet to win a major event, a sub 31-minute 10K on a tough course in Sydney proves he can run with the best of them. Brukhankov’s countryman, Dmitry Polyansky is also looking strong after finishing fourth in Sydney, and he’ll no doubt look to push the pace in the swim and lead out of the water.
As was the case in Sydney, two Olympic champions are on the start list in Seoul in the form of Canadian Simon Whitfield and Germany’s Jan Frodeno. Whitfield had a solid 2010 debut, finishing fifth in Sydney, while Frodeno was relegated to a disappointing 32nd-place showing after a bike crash entering the second transition.
Competitors will also have their eyes on Americans Hunter Kemper and Matt Chrabot, both of whom managed brief breakaways in Sydney. Chrabot and Kemper went on to finish 9th and 10th, respectively. Reigning duathlon world champion Jarrod Shoemaker rounds out the strong American contingent in Seoul.
While the Russians and Americans have fielded strong teams for Seoul, perhaps the toughest competition in the men’s race will come from the French squad, headlined by third-place Sydney finisher David Hauss. Countryman Tony Moulai was at the front for the majority of the run en route to finishing sixth, while France’s top performer from the 2009 season, Laurent Vidal, finished eighth Down Under.
Be sure to tune into triathlonlive.tv on May 8 to catch all the racing action from Seoul as it happens. The women’s event kicks off at 10am local time with the men to follow at 1pm.
Kiwi Bevan Docherty won the Series opener in Sydney, with Russia's Alexander Brukhankov and France's David Hauss rounding out the podium
ITU launches the 2010 Dextro Energy Triathlon World Championship Season and new partnership with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation