It’s that time again, when countries will battle to decide who is the best triathlon nation in the world. And this year, there will be more countries trying to do that than ever before, with a total of 37 teams from 30 different National Federations entered in the 2011 Lausanne Team Triathlon World Championships.
Since the ITU’s new team triathlon mixed relay was introduced in 2009, the format has kept gaining momentum, in 2009 a total of 12 different countries competed, before 15 entered in the 2010 event.
This year the 30 different National Federations on the start line includes 20 countries that have competed in the Team Triathlon world titles before, Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, Great Britain and the USA. But there are also 10 national teams who are brand new to the team event and will be making their world championship debut, including Belgium, Chile, Croatia, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea and Surinam.
Now it’s fitting that the city home to the modern Olympic movement plays host, as the ITU aims for the team event’s inclusion on the Rio 2016 Olympic Games programme. Team triathlon made a successful major games debut at the Singapore Youth Olympic Games in 2010 and earlier this year, was also accepted in the Incheon 2014 Asian Games programme.
In the race, each team member completes a super-sprint distance triathlon consisting of a 265m swim, 5km bike and 1.2km run before tagging their next teammate.
The final teams for Sunday’s world championships do not need to be declared until just before the race, so expect both tactics and fitness to become some of the deciding and intriguing issues in the next five days. But one thing is for sure, Swizterland has won both world titles in this format so far and will be hard to beat at home again. In 2009, it was a team of Magali di Marco, Ruedi Wild, Daniela Ryf and Lukas Salvisberg. In 2010 Nicola Spirig and Sven Riederer joined Wild and Ryf to score back-to-back team world titles. This year’s No.1 Swiss team has just one change, with Daniela Ryf taking a break after London, and Melanie Annaheim taking her spot alongside Spirig, Riederer and Wild. Switzerland’s No.2 team will be Celine Schaerer, Ruth Nivon Machoud, Andrea Salvisberg and Florin Salvisberg.
Something that is sure to strike fear into the hearts of every other team though is Great Britain’s line-up, which boasts Alistair Brownlee, Jonathan Brownlee, Helen Jenkins and Jodie Stimpson. That foursome not only has two world championships, 11 overall Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series wins and even more series medals on its resume, but they are all in excellent form. Alistair Brownlee and Jenkins were the respective London winners and Jonathan Brownlee finished third, while Stimpson has finished in the top 15 in her last three races,14th in London, ninth in Hamburg and 10th at the European Championships. Stimpson also finished eighth in the individual sprint world championships here in Lausanne in 2010.
The No.1 American team could also be a real contender, particulary with the legspeed of Gwen Jorgensen and Sarah Groff alongside Mark Fretta and Barrett Brandon. Groff became the first American woman to win a Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series medal when she made the podium in Kitzbuhel this year, and Jorgensen earned the second when she claimed silver in London. Both women also qualified for Team USA for next year’s London Olympics in Hyde Park. Since then, Jorgensen continued her hot streak, claiming her first ITU win, the Tiszjavarious World Cup.
At the moment, 2009 bronze medal winning Canada is likely to go with the team of Chantell Widney, Manon Letourneau, Andrew Yorke and Andrew Russell, with the final decision made after the sprint races. Canada will be without the services of Simon Whitfield and Paula Findlay, three-time winner in this year’s Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series, as both will instead race in the Canadian National Championships in Kelowna, BC, Canada.
Australia’s team is not yet known, but it’s likely the two females in the team will be called Emma. Two-time reigning World Champion Emma Moffatt, reigning Olympic gold medallist Emma Snowsill and the third highest ranked Australian woman in the series in 2011, Emma Jackson, will all race the sprint world championships on Saturday so expect at least two to line up in the Australian no.1 team. The boys are likely to be Brad Kahlefeldt and Brendan Sexton, who have both been on the winner’s list this year, Kahlefeldt at the Mooloolaba World Cup and Hamburg and Sexton at the Monterrey World Cup. The talent runs past just one team, and look out for athletes like Erin Densham, Felicity Abram, Ashleigh Gentle, Felicity Sheedy-Ryan, Aaron Royle and James Seear in Australia’s No.2 team.
The other powerhouse triathlon nation from Oceania, New Zealand, is also yet to decide on a team but can pick from a host of athletes including Andrea Hewitt, Kate McIlroy, Nicky Samuels, Tony Dodds, Ryan Sissons, James Elvery and Clark Ellice, who are all on the start lists for Saturday’s sprint world championships.
Based on the athletes entered in Saturday’s individual sprint, both France and Spain should also be teams to watch. The French team is likely to be able to pick from athletes like Emmie Charayron, Jessica Harrison, David Hauss, Laurent Vidal and Tony Moulai, while Spain could possibly pick two-time World Champion Javier Gomez, Mario Mola, Ainhoa Murua and Marta Jimenez.
The 2011 ITU Team Triathlon World Championships gets underway in Lausanne at 1:45pm (local time) on Sunday 21 August. Follow every movement live through Triathlon’s live video, timing and text updates, at www.triathlonlive.tv. Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/triathlonlive.