Big Names and Old Friendly Rivalries Return for the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama
In the third stop of the 2017 World Triathlon Series the elites head to Japan to return to the familiar event of the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama.
Last year Yokohama played the home to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic qualifying event for many nations, but this season the Japanese harbor city returns to host the second standard-distance race of the year.
As one of the athlete-favourite events on the WTS calendar, many popular names will be debuting to the WTS circuit to compete in their first event of the 2017 season.
by Chelsea White
In the third stop of the 2017 World Triathlon Series the elites head to Japan to return to the familiar event of the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama. Last year Yokohama played the home to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic qualifying event for many nations, but this season the Japanese harbor city returns to host the second standard-distance race of the year. As one of the athlete-favourite events on the WTS calendar, many popular names will be debuting to the WTS circuit to compete in their first event of the 2017 season.
One of those names is the 2016 reigning ITU World Champion, Flora Duffy (BER). After being forced to pull her name off the start list in both Abu Dhabi and Gold Coast this season due to injury, Duffy is finally ready to line up this weekend to begin her quest of reclaiming her world title. Duffy’s cinderella story was realized last year when she claimed four WTS podiums and two victories that aided in the seizing of the world crown for the first time for the small Caribbean-island woman. So after having to miss out on the first two WTS competitions of the season, Duffy is eager to get back on the blue carpet.
But possibly Duffy’s biggest threat to her crown this year is Kiwi Andrea Hewitt, who has staked claims on the overall Series gold after she won both races this season in Abu Dhabi and Gold Coast. Hewitt has been unstoppable so far, proving that she is the top competitor in both a sprint and standard-distance setting. Her confidence and fitness in all three disciplines has been evident this year, so it is no surprise that she once again will enter Yokohama wearing the golden number one. And if she does snag another WTS gold, she will earn her second Yokohama victory after she won in the same venue back in 2011.
Great Britain fans will be delighted to see both Non Stanford and Vicky Holland starting their WTS seasons this weekend. Stanford raced in the Chengdu World Cup last weekend and walked away with the gold medal, so she comes in on high regards and ready to gain success in the larger and tougher Series. While Holland planned to race in Chengdu as well, a sore calf left her to make the decision to pull out. But the Olympic bronze medallist is rested up and ready to embark on her 2017 race season.
As Yokohama always hosts one of the largest crowds of the season, the streets will be loud for Japan’s own Ai Ueda and Juri Ide. Ueda earned the bronze medal in Yokohama last year and took the silver medal in Yokohama in 2014. This season, while she has yet to make a podium she has shown strong running times, so it is only a matter of time before she steps up again. Ide on the other hand earned the bronze medal in Gold Coast this year. It was in 2009 that she also earned a bronze in Yokohama, so her reclaimed success could carry onto this weekend to get back on the podium.
USA will come stacked again with their roster of talent that has been dominating the nations this year. In Gold Coast, USA had three women in the top-ten with the top mark coming from Katie Zaferes. But Kirsten Kasper, Renee Tomlin and Summer Cook are putting up strong performances this season as well.
Of course the Aussies are another powerful nation with loads of talent. Charlotte McShane enters Yokohama with the highest ranking, but Gillian Backhouse and Ashleigh Gentle also enter with great success to be had this weekend. Gentle has one podium this year from Gold Coast and earned the silver medal in Yokohama last season, so she has the cards with her to continue her streak.
or the eighth time in World Triathlon Series history, elites head back to Japan to compete in the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama. Celebrating one of the cities that was one of our first, Yokohama hosts the third stop of the 2017 Series and second standard-distance race of the year.
Always drawing large crowds, Yokohama continues to be a fan and athlete-favorite event. This year, the men’s field returns to battle it out once again in the Harbour.
Topping the men’s start list is the current WTS rankings leader Javier Gomez Noya (ESP). After winning in the season opening race in Abu Dhabi, Gomez proved he is back in action after missing a large part of the 2016 year. Just missing the podium in Gold Coast by coming in fourth, Gomez has a good relationship with Yokohama and has won in the Japanese city both in 2014 and 2015. So, winning for a third time at the same venue could be in the cards for the Spaniard this weekend.
That is of course if he can get by his fellow Spanish compatriots Fernando Alarza and Mario Mola. Alarza outsprinted Gomez on the blue carpet in Gold Coast and continues to prove he is not just the young Spaniard anymore, but rather a threat to some of the older veterans such as Gomez. And of course there is Mola, the current reigning ITU World Champion, who also won in Yokohama last year. He also got back on the leaderboard when he was victorious in Gold Coast, a win he earned on his 50th WTS race of his career.
However, there is one man returning to the WTS who wants to stop the Spanish winning streak. Great Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee is set to race in Yokohama for his first ITU appearance since the infamous Cozumel Grand Final. The World Champion runner-up last season and Olympic silver medallist, fans have been eagerly awaiting the return of Brownlee and to see him seek revenge on the world crown he just nearly missed last year.
While older brother Alistair Brownlee is mostly focusing on new distance races this season, Jonny will be teaming up with training partner Richard Varga (SVK) to hit up the circuit together. Varga is a top swimmer and therefore is likely to make the lead bike pack, where he and Jonny can make their moves.
Brit Tom Bishop also returns to race in Yokohama after earning his first WTS medal in Abu Dhabi.
Aussies Jacob Birtwhistle and Ryan Baile are top contenders for the weekend. Birtwhistle is one of Australia’s young talent, who qualified for the 2018 Commonwealth Games by finishing fifth in Gold Coast. Baile is a talent on the bike and usually has a good finish.
Other names to watch this weekend include men who have had past success in Yokohama. Last year Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt and Mexico’s Crisanto Grajales debuted on their first WTS podiums in Yokohama. Joao Silva (POR) won in Yokohama in 2011 an 2012, while Russian Alexander Bryukhankov made podium in 2011 as well.
The women will get the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama underway at 10:00 on Saturday, May 13, while the men will follow on Saturday at 13:00 local time. Follow all of the action live at triathlonlive.tv and on twitter @triathlonlive.
Join the conversation with the hashtag #WTSYokohama