Javier Gomez Noya (ESP) added to his collection of titles and accolades when he crossed the finish line first at the 2015 Rio de Janeiro Test Event, ensuring he would line up again in 2016 as he fulfilled both his National Federation’s requirements for Olympic qualification and earned Spain a spot on the start list.
“It feels great to have my qualification for Rio. I enjoyed racing the course, it was a tough race but I felt quite good. I was saving some energy for the last two laps of the run because I am training for World Championships, so it was nice to win, I wouldn’t say it was easy, but it was controlled so I am really happy,” he said.
Vincent Luis (FRA) also secured France a berth to Rio, when he crossed over in second, simultaneously fulfilling his Federation’s qualification guidelines while Richard Murray ensured South Africa would be represented in 2016 when he earned a bronze with the most impressive run of the day.
Two distinct groups formed on the one-lap ocean swim at Copacabana Beach, with Richard Varga (SVK), Henri Schoeman (RSA), and a string of French men including Luis, Dorian Coninx (FRA), and Pierre Le Corre (FRA) exiting the water first. Getting out in front in the 1.5km swim was pivotal to several athletes in their paths to Olympic qualifications.
“I was in a bit of pressure because some of the French cut out, so it was really hard. But I was confident on the course, it was a very technical bike leg, but I swam good so I was under pressure but it was good.”
Together with the likes of Gomez, Alistair Brownlee (GBR), Aaron Royle (AUS), Igor Polyanskiy (RUS), Tommy Zaferes (USA) and Alessandro Fabian (ITA), eleven men pushed out a heady lead on the tough eight-lap bike course. Their lead held strong despite three men dropping off the bike, one of which was Varga in a crash.
Down to eight, with six laps to go, the lead peloton surged to more than a minute lead over the chase, which included Murray, Mario Mola (ESP), David Hauss (FRA), and Joao Silva (POR). While the chase looked like it was starting to work together, any plans of reducing the deficit to the leaders was short lived and the gap only increased over the 40km course.
Knowing he needed a top-six finish to qualify for France’s Olympic team, Luis launched an attack immediately after racking his bike, but champion Gomez gunned him down and they entered the first of four laps together with Brownlee trailing behind. Further back, with Olympic qualification on their minds, Royle and Zaferes held strong.
The second lap sang a different tune, with Gomez breaking away and creating even more distance to the Olympic reigning champion Brownlee, and Luis sandwiched between. Royle crept up on Brownlee but a massive run from Murray meant the South African was picking off men at an incredible rate.
On the back half of the 10km run, Gomez extended his lead, making it clear he’d cross the finish tape first with Luis second, Murray changed the game for many as he sailed past man after man pulling himself up from a minute gap onto the podium.
“I don’t think it has sunk in yet, I know that is such a cliché thing to say, but you know at the start of the day I had to motivate myself because it was going to be difficult to get. The swim was real rough, I came up quote far back, but even so the run was one of my best today, so overall in the end I am happy with the way things turned out today.”