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With the London 2012 Opening Ceremony exactly two weeks away, the International Triathlon Union (ITU) is pleased to announce the official triathlon start lists for the London 2012 Olympic Games. In Hungary, ahead of this weekend’s Tiszaujvaros ITU Triathlon World Cup, the 39 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) were randomly drawn, and then start numbers were assigned to their respective athletes in alphabetical order. While the start numbers indicate position in the transition area, they do not relate to athletes’ position on the start pontoon.
For the women, Chile’s Barbara Riveros Diaz will wear No. 1 for the women. The reigning ITU Sprint Triathlon World Champion and 2011 Pan Am Games silver medallist is viewed as a serious podium threat and is seeking to be the first South American triathlete to medal at the Olympics. Great Britain was the seventh NOC drawn, meaning numbers 8, 9 and 10 are respectively assigned to the home team of Lucy Hall, Vicky Holland and reigning ITU World Champion Helen Jenkins.
Two other strong teams were drawn immediately after Great Britain with France and Japan. Australia was the 14th NOC drawn, giving numbers 25, 26, and 27 to the powerful squad of Erin Densham, Emma Jackson and Beijing bronze medalist Emma Moffatt, respectively. The only woman to have qualified for four Olympic Games—Germany’s Anja Dittmer—will wear No. 22. She booked her spot to London 2012 with a surprising bronze at last year’s test event. The North American NOCs were drawn last with the United States and Canada occupying the final spots in the transition area.
In the men’s field, Costa Rica’s Leonardo Chacon of Costa Rica will sport No. 1 and occupy the first position in the transition area. Unlike the women’s draw, Canada was the first major team drawn, third out of the ballot, giving start numbers 3, 4, and 5 to Kyle Jones, Brent McMahon and double Olympic medallist and 2000 champion Simon Whitfield. The Russian team, likely to play a huge role in the race with their strong swim-bikers, was the 18th NOC drawn. Alexander Bryukhankov, Dmitry Polyanskiy and Ivan Vasiliev will wear numbers 25, 26, and 27 respectively.
Great Britain was the 21st NOC drawn which means the heavily favoured Brownlee brothers Alistair and Jonathan have been assigned numbers 30 and 31 respectively. Spain’s 2-time World Champion Javier Gomez, widely viewed as the Brownlees’ most dangerous threat for gold, will wear No. 51. Germany’s Jan Frodeno will defend his Olympic title wearing No. 46. New Zealand was the last NOC drawn among the men, with 2-time Olympic medallist Bevan Docherty donning No. 54.
Starting positions on swim pontoon will take place at the athlete briefings, two days prior to each competition day. Athletes will select their spots based on the final ITU Olympic qualification list.
Start numbers indicate not only transition position, but also have served as a bit of luck. Number 34 on the women’s side has always produced an Olympic medallist. Emma Snowsill won gold in Beijing in 2008, Susan Williams picked up bronze in Athens in 2004, and Magali Di Marco also took bronze in Sydney in 2000, all while wearing No. 34. In London, Nicky Samuels of New Zealand will have the supposed lucky number.
Conversely, nobody will display unlucky 13 at the Olympics, as it is purposely excluded in both the men’s and women’s races, as in all other ITU races. Therefore, the final start number assigned is 56.
A record 39 NOCs will participate in the London 2012 triathlon competition, including 55 women across 30 NOCs and 55 men from 32 NOCs. A maximum of three athletes are permitted per gender, per nation, with eight having qualified the maximum. The 39 NOCs is an all-time high, compared to 36 in Beijing in 2008. Ecuador, Mauritius, Monaco, Republic of Korea, and Slovenia each qualified triathletes for the first time in Olympic history.
Introduced as an Olympic sport at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, three athletes will make their fourth Olympic appearance in London, including Whitfield, Hunter Kemper (USA) and Dittmer.
Whitfield will also be the first triathlete flag bearer as he will lead the Canadian Olympic team into the Opening Ceremony on July 27th. He was also the first man to win Olympic gold in triathlon in 2008 and in 2008, he collected silver in Beijing.
Only five past Olympic medallists will take part in London 2012, including Docherty (silver in Athens, bronze in Beijing), Switzerland’s Sven Riederer (bronze in Athens), and Frodeno (gold in Beijing). Australia’s Emma Moffatt (bronze in Beijing) is the only previous Olympic medallist in the women’s race.
On the men’s side, Whitfield and Docherty will face the dangerous Brownlee brothers, who have dominated the sport in the last two years. Spain’s Gomez, who was favoured in Beijing but finished just off the podium, will be hungry for Olympic redemption.
The women’s race could see a less predictable finish than the men, with a host of women ready to make Olympic history. Moffatt will face opposition from yet another Brit, Helen Jenkins and New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt. In addition, Moffatt’s own teammate Densham will also likely serve as strong competition.
The women’s race will start at 9:00am Saturday 4 August in Hyde Park and the men will take off at 11:30am on Tuesday 7 August.