Mola earns first-time Yokohama gold
It was an event that provided a podium of firsts as Spaniard Mario Mola was finally able to capture the gold medal in Japan at the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama. While the other two podium spots were earned by Mexico’s Crisanto Grajales and Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, both of whom graced the WTS podium for the very first time.
Their medals also meant that Mexico and Norway were represented on a World Triathlon Series podium for the first time in history.
After surviving the masses during the swim and bike legs that saw more than 60 men enter the second transition together, Mola executed on his run right out of the T2 gate and was able to stride his way into his third WTS victory of the season.
Mola said of his win, “I am very happy with how things went today. I think I managed to do a good swim. I was able to stay among the front of the pack; the British guys did a great job in front so it made it a bit easier to stay there. And then on the run I felt great, so I could not be happier.”
“I am very pleased with how things are going. I know it is a long time until Rio, but my goal at the beginning of the season was to keep working and keeping racing as I did in the past, which has worked so why change what normally works. So now I will keep working in the next couple of months toward the Olympics, but of course with Javi racing it is going to be a different game.”
Also capitalizing on the run was Grajales who captured the silver medal, when he overtook Blummenfelt in the final kilometres of the course to advance into second place, while Blummenfelt was left to finish off the day with an impressive third.
“I am very happy. It is my first podium in the WTS, so I am very happy for me, for my coach, for my family and my country. It was a hard course, but I just am happy. It was an amazing race, but I am waiting for Rio so now I will go home for two weeks to relax and train for the Olympic Games,” Grajales said.
The day started with Olympic stakes set at an all-time high, as many men were vying for a final roundup of qualifying points in the last Olympic qualifying race of the season before Rio this summer. The men were welcomed by choppy waters for the two laps of 750 metres. While the conditions were ready to test the field, the entire men’s roster stuck together. USA’s Ben Kanute and Henri Schoeman (RSA) managed to hold out in front of the swim line and exit the waters in the lead. But they were followed by the masses, which created a busy first transition.
Heading out onto the bike it looked as though maybe some different groups were going to form, but after the first lap the course was simply a giant sea of cyclists as the pack tallied well over 50 men.
As the pack never decreased in size of the course of the nine-laps, the second transition zone would become a gathering of all contenders at the same time.
However, it was Mola who was able to avoid executed a swift and quick exit lead lead out onto the run. He immediately took control out front, setting the pace. But Blummenfelt would not let Mola escape alone, as the Norwegian powerhouse surprised by running right on Mola’s heels.
Halfway through the run, Mola was able to step it up a gear and eventually drop Blummenfelt, finishing the race with a comfortable lead that brought him into the finish chute first.
A group of men that included Grajales, Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS), Fernando Alarza (ESP), Pierre Le Corre (FRA) and Schoeman grouped together right off the bat and ran together chasing Mola and Blummenfelt. Not until the final kilometres did Grajales seize the opportunity to get away from the others and chase down Blummenfelt.
In a final surge, Grajales pushed past Blummenfelt to capture the silver and his first WTS podium. Blummenfelt was then left to finish his day also earning a medal with the bronze.
“I have been training hard the last couple of weeks so I thought I had a good chance on the run, I have been in good running shape and I have had some good sessions. But I am a bit surprised that I was able to get a medal after there was like 40 guys getting off the bike together. Running felt quite easy in the beginning, so I thought I would just try to hang on for a good seven or eight kilometres and see what could happen, but suddenly I hit a wall and just had to survive for the last five kilometres.”
The big topic on many athletes’ minds was where they needed to finish to qualify for the Rio Olympics. The USA’s Joe Maloy and Ben Kanute clocked 11th- and 17th-place finishes, which were strong enough for the US to name them to the Olympic team. While Greg Billington didn’t finish, his standing was high enough with USA Triathlon’s own rankings that he, too, was named to their Olympic team.
While Jason Wilson didn’t improve his ranking, his biggest competition Manuel Huerta didn’t race, so Wilson should theoretically make his first Olympic Team and become the first triathlete from Barbados to go to the Olympics. A 29th place finish from Ivan Ivanov was not enough to overtake Thomas Springer for the European new flag quota spot.
The biggest points mover of the day was Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN). His 10th place finish saw him surge to 2781 points, moving up ahead of teammates Andrew Yorke and Kyle Jones. While Canada’s two positions are in tact, selectors now have to choose which of the three men to take to Rio.
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