Beijing Elite Women’s Preview: Is Helen Jenkins on her way to her second World Title?

Beijing Elite Women’s Preview: Is Helen Jenkins on her way to her second World Title?

By Merryn Sherwood on 06/09/11 at 9:53 am

The 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series started in Sydney, before heading to Madrid, Kitzbühel, Hamburg, London and Lausanne. Now after six brilliant rounds, that included three wins to Canada’s Paula Findlay, Australia capturing an Emma trifecta with Emma Moffatt, Emma Jackson and Emma Snowsill in Hamburg, Helen Jenkins first series win in the biggest race of her year in London and Barbara Riveros Diaz winning Chile’s first world championship in Lausanne, the individual world titles all boil down to Beijing.

Over the tough 2008 Olympic course, with a 1.5km one-lap swim in Ming Tomb Reservoir, the 40km deceptively tough bike leg and a 10km run, only one woman will be crowned the 2011 ITU World Champion. Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series Rankings are used to determine the best performing triathletes of the season. An athlete’s final score is obtained by adding the four best scores in the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series events and the ITU Triathlon World Cup events, plus the points gained at the Grand Final.

Elite Women’s Preview
Helen Jenkins has said a few times in the past few months that winning her second World Championship wasn’t on her radar at the start of the season.

“Coming into this year my main focus was Hyde Park, I wasn’t even thinking about potentially being world champion again,” she added.

But now, it is within her grasp. With a total of 2913 points, ahead of Barbara Riveros Diaz at 2712 and Paula Findlay with 2637, Jenkins only needs to finish on the podium to her win her second ITU World Championship title. Jenkins won her first in 2008, when a bike breakaway with Sarah Haskins stuck and she ran into gold, but Jenkins certainly wasn’t within the favourites after the opening round in Sydney this year. A bike crash in the series opener left her battered, bruised and in 29th place. But the 27-year old went on finish second in Madrid and Kitzbühel, skipped Hamburg and then won London. A fourth place finish in the sprint round Lausanne now puts her in the best position to win in Beijing.

Jenkins only needs to finish in the top three to win the title, even if the second ranked Riveros Diaz or third-placed Findlay does win.  The other factor that leads to Jenkins is that the course suits an all-around strong triathlete, and Jenkins has proved herself to be brilliant in all three legs this year. Jenkins is often with the leaders in the swim, and has kicked off on more than one bike breakaway this year and she’s still had the legs to run with the best.

Riveros Diaz has always been there, and consistency is the most important value in the Dextro Energy Triathon Series, as seen in 2010 when Emma Moffatt won the title without winning a single series race. Riveros Diaz has won a round this year though, when she fittingly put on a late surge to beat Australia’s Emma Jackson in Lausanne. That race was also the ITU Elite Sprint World Championships and was the first ITU World Championship race win for Chile.

Canadian Paula Findlay was simply unbeatable for the first three rounds but after skipping Hamburg and Lausanne, has slipped down to fourth in the rankings.  Findlay was the only woman to win more than one round of the series last year, when she surprised everyone with a win in London and then backed it up with Kitzbühel. She proved those results certainly weren’t a fluke in Sydney, beating Riveros Diaz and Andrea Hewitt home with a simply stellar display of running. Findlay then continued that in Madrid and Kitzbühel, before her season came back down to earth sharply when a hip injury forced her to pull out of the Edmonton World Cup. She was right to run again for London, but the lack of run training clearly affected her as she dropped to 29th. Findlay didn’t race in Lausanne and she will need a huge race in Beijing to make the podium now, with athletes like Andrea Hewitt and Emma Jackson close behind.

In fact, Hewitt couldn’t be any closer behind, she’s currently sitting just one point behind Findlay in the rankings. The 2009 ITU World Championships bronze medallist has performed consistently well his year, but she would be hoping to turn that into a medal. For that to happen though, she will need to beat Riveros Diaz or Findlay to leapfrog them.

Also in the mix is Jackson, who could very possibly finish the year as Australia’s most successful Emma in 2011; an impressive feat if she can knock off teammates like reigning Olympic champion Emma Snowsill and two-time ITU World Champion Emma Moffatt in just her first elite ITU season. Jackson won the women’s Under23 title last year and raced in the series opening in Sydney, but it wasn’t until Hamburg that she really made a name for herself as the Australian Emmas filled the podium, Moffatt first, Jackson second and Snowsill third. Jackson then went on to win silver in Lausanne, and put herself as the top ranked Australian woman heading into Beijing.

Only those five have a realistic chance to make the ITU World Championship podium in 2011, but there is still plenty to race for. One athlete who will be after that win is the last woman to win a major event on this course, Emma Snowsill. The Aussie won Olympic gold by a whopping 66 seconds from Portugal’s Vanessa Fernandes, with Moffatt coming in third. Snowsill managed to finish her injury-riddled 2010 season on a high note by decimating the field at the Budapest Grand Final last year. And as Moffatt is pretty much certain to lose the Dextro Energy Triathlon Series title she’s had sole ownership of for the first two years, a win would be a way to remind the field she’s still a major contender.

Click here to view the women’s start list

The 2011 Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Grand Final Beijing gets underway when the women’s elite sprint race starts at 1:35pm (local time) on Sunday 11 September. Follow every movement live through Triathlon’s live video, timing and text updates, at www.triathlonlive.tv. Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/triathlonlive.

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