The unlucky names: which triathletes missed out on the Paris Olympics?

by Ben Eastman on 29 Jun, 2024 11:06 • Español
The unlucky names: which triathletes missed out on the Paris Olympics?

It is the risk of failure that makes success taste sweeter. Without the critical element of jeopardy, achievements seldom carry the same value. Olympic qualification is no different in this respect as, by definition, more athletes will see their dreams scuppered than realised. With only 110 slots available, not everyone can go and so those that do make it have defied the odds and will be all the more ecstatic for it.

On the flip side, there are those that have missed out on selection. To rattle off even just a handful of these names is to see a group of truly extraordinary athletes. Such are the levels these individuals have attained during the Olympic qualifying window, to call their near-misses a failure does not do their efforts justice. Qualification can be a game of odds and numbers and this time the numbers simply did not fall their way.

In this article, we shine a light on some of the names that will not race in Paris this summer even though they have lit up the triathlon stage in recent times.

The end of the road?

One of the biggest names to have missed out is Vincent Luis (FRA). Many would have predicted that the double world champion (2019, 2020) would have been one of the faces of the Games when Paris was announced as the Olympic host. With high points such as his triumph at WTCS Bermuda in 2022, Luis’ form in recent years has indicated that he could have made it. However, after winning a relay bronze medal in Tokyo, Luis lost out to the remarkable depth of the French team.

Another medallist from the Tokyo relay, Jonathan Brownlee (GBR), will also not be in Paris. In his absence, this will be the first Games without a Brownlee brother since Athens in 2004. Brownlee has the unique distinction of owning an Olympic medal of every colour after taking relay gold last time round. He also claimed an eye-catching silver medal at WTCS Cagliari in 2022 and another silver at the European Championships in 2023. In 2024, however, he slipped behind Samuel Dickinson in the final push.

Katie Zaferes (USA) claimed individual bronze and relay silver in Tokyo but will not be able to defend her medals in Paris. Between the two Games, Zaferes took a maternity absence from the sport but has returned to the highest levels once more. She finished 5th at WTCS Montreal last summer and claimed World Cup medals too. She also was denied a gold medal at the Vina del Mar World Cup last autumn by a post-race disqualification.

The Olympic gold medallist from 2016, Gwen Jorgensen (USA), is another to miss out. Jorgensen stormed to four World Cup wins in 2023 after a lengthy absence from the sport. However, she did not quite manage to make things click in the WTCS in time. From the Italian team, Michele Sarzilla and Ilaria Zane each missed out. The former was the highest ranked Italian man in the Olympic rankings and won a World Cup medal for the first time last season. Zane’s efforts also saw Italy claim a third female slot for Paris. In the end, she not receive the berth.

David Castro Fajardo (ESP) is another to miss out on the Games for the third time while Gustav Iden (NOR) likewise did not earn selection. Jessica Learmonth (GBR) is another reigning Olympic medallist to have also missed out. Given that she has been on a maternity absence recently, her selection was never really in question. Considering the profiles of this group, there is a chance we will not see them push for the Olympics in 2028.

WTCS players

The next group of athletes concerns a collection of WTCS stars that could push on for selection in Los Angeles. In this respect, the obvious place to start is with Sophie Coldwell (GBR). After serving as the British reserve in Tokyo, Coldwell seemed set for Olympic selection this time round. She claimed her first WTCS win in Yokohama in 2023 and earned Series medals in each of 2021 and 2022 prior to that. As was the case in Tokyo, she thus is one of the few WTCS medallists from the current Olympic cycle to have been left at home.

Matthew McElory (USA) and Kevin McDowell (USA) could also push on towards 2028. Both are a few years younger than Zaferes and Jorgensen and the draw of a home Olympics may keep both in the game. McElroy is a WTCS medallist from 2019 and is the only American man aside from Morgan Pearson to have logged a top-8 WTCS finish in the past couple of years. Meanwhile, McDowell is the fifth and final reigning Olympic medallist to have missed out on Paris. He claimed a silver in the relay in Tokyo.

Márk Dévay (HUN) cruelly missed out after he lost his place in the top-30 of the Olympic rankings on the final day in Cagliari. With Dévay and Luis absent, a big question arises as to who will lead out the swim in Paris. Matthew Hauser (AUS) led out the WTCS Final in Pontevedra so is primed to step up, but it nonetheless could signal a changing of the guard from the last few years.

Noelia Juan (ESP) was another to miss out on selection after finishing 8th at WTCS Pontevedra while World Cup medallists and WTCS regulars Takumi Hojo (JPN) and Tayler Reid (NZL) did not make the cut.

Rising stars

We then turn to an even younger cohort of rising talents. Lena Meißner (GER) and Annika Koch (GER) both won WTCS medals during the qualification window – the former in Abu Dhabi in 2022, the latter in Sunderland in 2023 – and were blocked out by the depth of the German women’s team that was finalised as early as September 2023. They will no doubt push to be part of the next generation of German Olympians.

Similarly, the reigning World U23 champions Simon Henseleit (GER) and Selina Klamt (GER) were a little too green for Paris. Given another four years to develop, though, they could put themselves in the mix for Los Angeles. The men’s 2022 World U23 champion, Connor Bentley (GBR), could also be one to watch having missed out this time. 

Barclay Izzard (GBR) ended the qualification window as the second ranked British man in the Olympic rankings and was the only British man other than Alex Yee to log a WTCS top-8 finish in 2023. Like Bentley, his time may yet come. World Cup winner Sergio Baxter Cabrera (ESP) is another youngster that will likely be in the Olympic conversation in four years.

Rankings heartache

All of the athletes named so far have missed out through the vagaries of national selection. Some athletes, however, were denied by the rankings. In this category, there are a couple of prominent world-level performers that missed out.

Tereza Zimovjanova (CZE) won a maiden World Cup medal in 2023 and was in the fight for qualification right until the last moments. Romana Gajdošová (SVK) was in the same boat as she claimed a World Cup medal in Yeongdo last summer but could not quite translate her success into Olympic qualification. On the men’s side, Panagiotis Bitados (GRE) zoomed up the rankings after a belated start and finished 4th at the 2023 World U23 Championships. However, he fell short of the rankings cut-off.

The relay heroes

Finally, a special word should go to the unheralded stars of Huatulco. The final Mixed Team Relay Olympic Qualification Event saw the realisation of the Olympic hopes of Norway and the Netherlands. Two athletes that played critical roles in both relays, though, will not be in Paris.

Barbara De Koning (NED) took the second leg in the Dutch relay and helped set up Rachel Klamer’s tilt for 2nd place. In the end, WTCS medallist Maya Kingma received the second Dutch Olympic place alongside Klamer. Kingma would have qualified via the Olympic rankings but acknowledgement should go to De Koning’s efforts in securing the relay slot for her country. As a young athlete, her time may come in Los Angeles.

Casper Stornes (NOR) is the second athlete to highlight. The former WTCS gold medallist took the third leg for Norway in Huatulco and spent most of his race riding solo. Having played his part in his country’s storming win, the relay slot he earned will be taken by Kristian Blummenfelt. As with Kingma, Blummenfelt was due to qualify through the Olympic rankings but Stornes’ relay role cannot be overlooked.

Related Event: Paris 2024 Olympic Games
30 - 05 Aug, 2024 • event pageall results
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