World Cup mid-season review
After the first half of the 2007 BG Triathlon World Cup series, there were some surprise winners and unexpected outcomes. Perhaps the biggest revelation has been the performance of two young rookies, Russian Alexander Brukhankov and Kirsten Sweetland of Canada. Both were medalists at last years junior world championships (silver for Brukhankov and gold for Sweetland) and so far this year, their success has carried over to the elite ranks. The 18-year old Canadian broke through in Richards Bay, making her the youngest Canadian to ever win a world cup race. She followed that up with a silver medal at Edmonton, just falling short in the final 50-meter sprint finish. Like Sweetland, Brukhankov earned his first world cup podium at Richards Bay and also took silver in Edmonton. Now at the halfway point of the season, both are ranked inside the worlds top five.
Not surprisingly, Vanessa Fernandes and Javier Gomez have been making regular trips to the podium. They are the only athletes to have won medals in every world cup race theyve entered. Although Fernandes had her streak of 12 consecutive world cup wins snapped by a pair of Aussies in Mooloolaba, she responded with a string of convincing wins in Ishigaki, Lisbon and Madrid. Along with the duathlon world championships and her fourth European championship, its been yet another dominant season for the world number one. Gomez has been equally dominant, in the face of many more contenders. He took silver in Mooloolaba, losing the final sprint to local favourite Brad Kahlefeldt. But the Spaniard came back with a win in Lisbon, a silver medal in Madrid and a gutsy bronze in Des Moines to secure his place atop the world rankings after eight world cup events.
But both will likely see many challengers in the second half of the world cup season that includes two highly coveted races: the world championships in Hamburg, and the Beijing world cup, a key Olympic qualifier for many national federations.
Bevan Docherty has been hot the last few races, taking silver and a fat paycheck in Des Moines, then winning the next weekend in Edmonton. His mid-season surge has put him just four points behind Gomez in the world rankings. On the womens side, Fernandes may have yet another Aussie to contend with as Annabel Luxford has begun to find her form that helped her become the 2005 overall world cup champion. Luxford was runner-up in Des Moines and took bronze in Edmonton, vaulting her to number two in the world.
The first half of the season also featured the ITUs million-dollar month. More than a million dollars in prize money was handed out in the month of June with four consecutive world cup events, including the world cup stop in Des Moines, the richest triathlon in history. American Laura Bennett thrilled the home crowds as she overcame scorching conditions to win the womens race. Rasmus Henning rose to the occasion to take the mens race. Both walked away with US$200,000 and a brand new H3 Hummer.
As the athletes prepare for the second half of the season, there are many questions still to be answered: will Fernandes and Gomez break through for their first world titles? Will they repeat as overall world cup champions or will someone else step up and take the title? At least we know for sure the past few months have set the stage for a spectacular second half as athletes continue to fight for precious Olympic qualifying points in the push to Beijing.
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