Who earned the Paris Olympic Triathlon New Flag places?

by Ben Eastman on 30 May, 2024 07:16 • Español
Who earned the Paris Olympic Triathlon New Flag places?

One of the most exciting narratives to have unfolded in the 2024 season so far was the hunt for New Flag slots at the Paris Olympic Games. After a seemingly constant back-and-forth between the various competitors, the berths have finally been nailed down.

By way of reminder, each of the five continental associations can award one New Flag place per gender. In order to accept a slot, the individual in question must be the highest ranked athlete from their continent (and at least inside the top-180 of the world rankings) while hailing from a country without another qualifier of the same gender.

From WTCS events to Continental Cups, the New Flag races have been shaped by a glut of action. Whereas some athletes have maintained their leads for the best part of a year, others made late charges to snatch the places away from despairing rivals. In this article, we shine a light on the individuals that made the slots their own.


Africa

When it comes to regional dominance, it is hard to identify an athlete that is on a run of form quite like Vicky Van Der Merwe (RSA). The South African athlete remains unbeaten in Africa this year, having won a trio of Africa Cup events in addition to the Africa Championships and the African Games. Her victory at the Nelson Mandela Bay Africa Cup also guaranteed her Olympic selection by the South African federation in the event that she held onto the New Flag slot.

Van Der Merwe’s New Flag berth caps a triumphant return after an absence from the spot in which she became a mother. In the past year, she has won and then defended her continental crown and made her return to the World Cup scene. An Olympic appearance now awaits for an athlete that has hardly put a foot wrong.


Americas

As was the case for the Tokyo Olympics, Romina Biagioli (ARG) came out on top in the Americas New Flag contest. Biagioli’s 3rd place finish at the 2023 Americas Championships over the sprint distance proved a vital performance en route to her New Flag berth. In addition, she finished 6th at the 2024 Americas Championships over the standard distance and won a bronze medal at the Americas Cup in Vina del Mar.

Matthew Wright (BAR) proved untouchable in the race for the male Americas New Flag spot. The 2023 Americas champion over the sprint distance made his long-awaited return to the WTCS Cagliari after a series of fantastic performances at the Continental Cup level. A win at his home race at the Americas Cup in Barbados earlier in the season all but locked up Wright’s Olympic qualification.


Asia

The race for the female New Flag slot from Asia produced a truly thrilling finale. Entering this year, the 2023 Asian champion over the sprint distance, Ekaterina Shabalina (KAZ), was poised to sew up the New Flag slot. However, Bailee Brown (HKG) simply would not give up her chase.

In May, Brown won three consecutive medals at Asia Cup races and gradually reeled in Shabalina. Indeed, she even beat Shabalina in a head-to-head at the latter’s home Asia Cup race in Burabay. However, Shabalina’s exceptional 2023 form, in which she also won two Continental Cups and placed 4th at the Asian Games, was ultimately enough to hold off the defiant Brown. Looking ahead to the Games, Shabalina will be able to use the experience of racing at the Paris Test Event last summer to her advantage.

As close as the women’s race was, it was almost overshadowed by the titanic battle between Jason Tai Long Ng (HKG) and Ayan Beisenbayev (KAZ) in the men’s New Flag hunt.

In the end, Ng triumphed. His ultimate lead in the world rankings was three places (43rd to 46th) and he defeated Beisenbayev by a mere 31.84 points. Beisenbayev could hardly have done more. He won the Asia Championships over the sprint distance in 2023 and earned the bronze medal at Asian Games. Moreover, he logged multiple victories at the Continental Cup level.

Ng actually finished 2nd at the same 2023 Asia Championships and 5th at the Asian Games but made up for any deficit with a classy 7th place at the Weihai World Cup. The Hong Kong athlete also logged a series of consistent results in 2024, with a high point coming at the Asia Championships. After two brilliant contests, the contenders for the Asian New Flag berths can be proud of their achievements as they, like the athletes in the other New Flag competitions, left everything on the line.


Europe

To be frank, not many people saw Roksana Slupek (POL) coming. The young Polish athlete missed a large chunk of the 2023 season through injury and saw other athletes develop commanding advantages in the European New Flag race. On her comeback in November 2023, though, she claimed back-to-back victories at Africa Cup events. From there, she did not look back.

Slupek has been magnificent in 2024. Wins at the Asia Cup in Taizhou and Americas Cup in La Guaira sandwiched superb World Cup form, which included three top-6 finishes and a maiden medal in Chengdu. To sign off the qualification window, she roared to a best ever WTCS finish of 16th in Cagliari. While the likes of Ivana Kuriackova (SVK) and Sinem Francisca Tous Servera (TUR) held the lead previously in the New Flag race and each logged admirable results, they simply could not stop the runaway train that was Roksana Slupek.

In the men’s race, Felix Duchampt (ROU) simply would not be denied. A win at the Americas Cup in La Guaira got his 2024 campaign off to the perfect start and from there he took on a brutal schedule of relentless travel and racing as he hunted for extra points. A silver medal at the Iquique Americas Cup then sealed the deal, while his 5th place at the 2023 Weihai World Cup stood as his most valuable score. Like Romina Biagioli, Duchampt will be making his return to the Games having raced in Tokyo.


Oceania

For the first time, the Oceania women’s New Flag has been claimed. This was the product of the quality form of Manami Iijima (GUM) who won three Asia Cup silver medals across 2023 and 2024. Remarkably, Iijima only made her international debut in June 2022, when she won the Pacific Mini Games. Her development in the intervening two years has been highly impressive and she becomes Guam’s first Olympian in triathlon.

Meanwhile, there were no eligible men to receive the Oceania New Flag. The slot thus rolled down to the next athlete in the Olympic Qualification rankings, which was Gaspar Riveros (CHI, 83rd).

Tracker Pixel for Entry
Latest News
more news →