Columbia Threadneedle Rankings Head-to-Heads

The Columbia Threadneedle Rankings Head-to-Heads is a new innovation for the 2016 season which will highlight some of the interesting match ups before each race in the ITU World Triathlon Series.


ITU World Triathlon Championships Cozumel 2016.

Flora Duffy vs. Gwen Jorgensen

It has been a stunning year for Flora Duffy (BER), and it could yet finish with the title of World Champion. They say fortune favours the brave, and her from-the-front style was rewarded with a debut WTS victory in Stockholm, plus five further top four finishes in the series, during an exceptionally consistent season. Will her 166 points lead be enough to maintain that number one ranking over the Olympic Champion?

If you ask Gwen Jorgensen (USA), she’ll tell you that she has had one goal for the last four years. That was achieved with Gold in Rio on 20 August 2016; but she now has a chance of more. Can she become the first triathlete, male or female, to win Olympic and World Championship Gold in the same season? A third consecutive Grand Final victory would mean that Flora would need to finish second to take the title. This one is going to be close.

Mario Mola vs. Jonathan Brownlee

It’s all come down to this. Baring a very unexpected results set based on both current and past performances, one of these athletes looks set to leave Cozumel as the 2016 ITU Triathlon World Champion.

The favourite has to be Mario Mola (ESP). Seeking to keep the championship in Spanish hands after three years of Gold from Javier Gomez, Mario arrives in Cozumel with a 235 points lead. In practical terms that means were Jonathan to win the Grand Final, a podium finish would still be enough to add World Championship Gold to the Bronze, Silver and Silver of the past three seasons.

A Jonathan Brownlee win and a Mario Mola fourth place however would see the British athlete take the title by just 15 points. While Mario has yet to win the World Championship title at senior level, he did win the Grand Final 12 months ago in Chicago. That’s one of the few achievements that Jonathan doesn’t have on his CV.

Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) can already count his 2016 season as a huge success. After adding Olympic Silver in Rio to his Bronze medal in London four years ago, Jonathan showed his ability to perform on the biggest stage of all once again. Four years ago he won the World Championship title in Olympic year, and while he doesn’t have destiny in his own hands here, he’ll be seeking to put Mario Mola under pressure and repeat that.

In his favour, Jonathan has shown little Olympic hangover. His race winning performance in Edmonton was arguably one of the most dominant of his career. It should be a spectacular ending to the 2016 Columbia Threadneedle Rankings.


ITU World Triathlon Edmonton, Sept 3-4 2016

Paula Findlay vs. Emma Jackson

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No athlete will have more support in Edmonton than Paula Findlay (CAN). Five times a winner on the World Triathlon Series, Findlay was born and raised in Edmonton and will relish the opportunity to race again on home soil. Injury in recent years has prevented her from showing the incredible form of 2010 and 2011, but several top ten finishes in ITU World Cup races in recent years suggest that Paula is making steady progress in her return to the top of the sport.

Emma Jackson (AUS) is a relative veteran of the World Triathlon Series with 35 race starts, and yet she has only just turned 25 years of age. Part of the famous “three Emma’s” Aussie podium sweep in Hamburg five years ago, Emma has earned four, second place finishes in WTS races to date, to add to World Championship medals in the Junior and Under-23 ranks.

 

Crisanto Grajales vs. Joao Pereira

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Mexico’s Crisanto Grajales finally made the step up to a World Triathlon Series podium this year when finishing second in Yokohama. Seventh in the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings in 2015, with the Grand Final coming up in Cozumel, Mexico, Grajales has the chance to improve even further on that this year. A good result in Edmonton would certainly help his cause and having finished sixth two years ago, he will have good memories to draw upon.

Finishing one place ahead of Crisanto two years ago in Edmonton was Joao Pereira (POR). Pereira will head to Canada on the back of a fifth place finish at the Rio Olympic Games, just nine seconds shy of the Bronze medal. Could Edmonton be his chance to reach the top step of a World Triathlon Series podium? He will certainly arrive in good form.


 

Hamburg Wasser World Triathlon, July 16-17 2016

Laura Lindemann vs. Sophia Saller

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In this feature we profile two fast improving young German triathletes, who look set to translate their World Championship success at Junior and Under-23 level to more of the same in the senior ranks.

She may have only just turned 20 years of age, but Laura Lindemann (GER) is already a proven international athlete. Winning the European and World Junior Championships in both 2014 and 2015, Laura is able to perform when it counts. Only eight races into her World Triathlon Series career, she will have high hopes of improving on her best result to date, seventh place twelve months ago in Hamburg.

The future really does look bright for the home country as Sophia Saller (GER), just 22 years of age, is another athlete with proven international championship pedigree. The World Under-23 Champion in 2014, Sophia also won Elite European Championship Silver in the same season, second only to the reigning Olympic Champion, Nicola Spirig, on that day. Sophia’s best World Series result to date is fourth – could a home crowd inspire a first podium finish?

 

Mario Mola vs. Richard Murray

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Mario Mola (ESP) is rightly regarded as one of the top tier of athletes currently racing on the World Triathlon Series. With Bronze, Silver and Silver World Championship medals over the past three seasons, could this be the year that Mario adds Gold to his collection to become World Champion? With three wins from four WTS starts already, he has made a great start to making that happen – and will have the added incentive of trying to win in Hamburg for the first time in his career.

Richard Murray (RSA) is one of a very select group of athletes to have won on the World Triathlon Series more than once. Suffering a broken collarbone early in the season at Gold Coast, Richard bounced back to win the World Duathlon Championships in Spain, and this will be his first race back in the WTS. What better place to do it, than the site of his first victory four years ago.

To add extra spice to this head-to-head, both athletes are good friends and regular training partners, both under the guidance of coach Joel Filliol.


 

Vattenfall World Triathlon Stockholm, July 2 2016

Vicky Holland vs. Katie Zaferes

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Our selection for Stockholm features two athletes who between them earned an impressive collection of ten World Triathlon Series podiums in 2015. Both will be heading to Rio this summer believing they are potential Olympic Games medallists, with the results to back up that ambition.

Third in Leeds three weeks ago, Vicky Holland (GBR) is an athlete who shows podium potential every time she sets foot on the course these days. Since winning Bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the British athlete’s confidence has grown, and she will feel she can improve on her previous best in Stockholm of fourth.

Calling 2015 a ‘breakthrough’ season for Katie Zaferes (USA) is an understatement. Earning six World Triathlon Series podiums in one season, only an off-par performance at the Chicago Grand Final prevented her from winning a first ITU World Championship medal. Second last year in Stockholm, Zaferes will relish returning to the Swedish Capital.

Kristian Blummenfelt vs. Pierre Le Corre

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Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) looks set to carry the hopes of the Scandinavian region this weekend. Following wins in ETU European Cup and ITU World Cup events this year, the talented young athlete proved his form on the highest stage with a first World Triathlon Series podium in Yokohama. Very much on the rise, look for Blummenfelt to make a significant improvement on his 13th position in Stockholm last year.

Pierre Le Corre (FRA) has shown both consistency and excellence over the past two years, something that has earned the 26 year-old selection to a very strong French team for the Rio Olympic Games. His last eight World Triathlon Series races have returned seven top-ten finishes, and he arrives in Stockholm ranked fourth in the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings.

 


 

ITU World Triathlon Leeds, 12 June 2016

Alistair Brownlee vs. Javier Gomez

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The reigning Olympic Gold and Silver medallists respectively, many would argue that these are the two greatest male athletes ever to have competed in ITU racing. Since the World Triathlon Series was established in 2009, Alistair and Javier have won more than half of the 61 races that have been held and both have a WTS podium percentage of 75%+. Both are consistent; consistently brilliant.

A proud Yorkshireman, Leeds is the training ground of the two-time ITU World Champion and current Olympic and Commonwealth Games Gold medal holder Alistair Brownlee. Four times a winner in Hyde Park, London, the relocation of the British leg of the World Triathlon Series to Leeds will provide further motivation to win in front of an adoring home crowd.

An undisputed legend of the sport, Javier Gomez holds a record five ITU World Championship titles, which includes the last three in consecutive years. Absent from the first four races of the 2016 WTS season, Javier arrives in London having just won his fourth European Championship title in Lisbon. With Olympic Gold in Rio his motivation, look to Javier to try and spoil the ‘Brownlee’ party in Leeds as his incredible rivalry with Alistair continues.

Jonathan Brownlee vs. Dmitry Polyanskiy

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Jonathan Brownlee is the third most successful male athlete in the history of the World Triathlon Series and yet still number two in his family; such is the impact of the Brownlee brothers. Still just 29 years of age, Russia’s Dmitry Polyanskiy is the most experienced athlete on the circuit with 50 WTS starts.

An Olympic Bronze medal winner at just 22 in London, Jonathan Brownlee will believe he now has the strength and speed to finish a step or two higher on the podium in Rio this August. Frustrated by a puncture, which robbed him of the chance to go head-to-head with elder brother Alistair in London last year, the Leeds race will be a close second to Rio in terms of his major objectives for 2016.

Dmitry Polyanskiy is almost an ever-present within the World Triathlon Series. Finishing third in the very first race in Tongyeong, Korea in 2009, he has since gone on to add a further four podium finishes to his C.V. Dmitry will arrive in Leeds with the additional confidence of a European Championship Silver medal in Lisbon, where he finished second to Javier Gomez.

Gwen Jorgensen vs. Non Stanford

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Could this head-to-head be a reflection of the battle for Gold and Silver at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games this summer? Jorgensen first, Stanford second was the result last year in arguably the two biggest races of the season at the Rio Test Event and the Chicago Grand Final.

Gwen Jorgensen has shown consistent form of the highest possible standards over the past two seasons. World Champion in both 2014 and 2015, Gwen has won 13 of her last 14 World Triathlon Series races. A feared runner, Jorgensen has developed her swim and bike performances to the point that she is a genuine all-rounder now and the clear favourite for Gold in Rio.

Originally from Swansea in Wales, Non Stanford calls Leeds home these days as a part of the all-conquering Yorkshire-based triathlon squad. World Champion at both Under-23 and Senior level in 2012 and 2013 respectively, Non has raced just once on the WTS circuit this year, resulting in a clear victory in Cape Town. Accepted into the local community, Stanford will be able to draw upon the support of an enthusiastic home crowd and hope to be the first athlete across the finish line in Millennium Square.

 


 

ITU World Triathlon Yokohama, 14 May 2016

 

Andrea Hewitt vs. Ai Ueda

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With 47 starts each; Andrea Hewitt (NZL) and Ai Ueda (JPN) are the most experienced female athletes racing in the World Triathlon Series.

As well as longevity, Andrea has also been consistently successful. A winner in Yokohama five years ago, Andrea has finished on the podium in the season ending Columbia Threadneedle Rankings in five of the last seven years, collecting two Silver and three World Championship Bronze medals. She has also amassed a total of 16 individual WTS race podium finishes during this time, a figure only reigning World Champion, Gwen Jorgensen, has surpassed.

Ai Ueda will arrive in Yokohama buoyed by the recent success of a Gold medal in the Asian Championships in Hatsukaichi. The 2013 ITU World Duathlon Champion will enjoy returning to Yokohama, which was the sight of her only World Triathlon Series podium to date, finishing second to Gwen Jorgensen two years ago. Seventh place in Cape Town represents her best finish since that career high two years ago, so all the signs are there for another strong showing this weekend.

 

Jacob Birtwhistle vs. Dorian Coninx

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Our head-to-head this time around profiles two of the up-and-coming athletes that we expect to be seeing a lot more of over the next decade.

Already a World Champion at both Junior and Under-23 level, Dorian Coninx (FRA) achieved a debut WTS podium in Cape Town in what was his 11th Series start. In addition to individual success, Dorian was also part of the Gold medal winning French team at the 2015 Mixed Relay Triathlon World Championships. Still only 22, he looks set to add to that tally over the next few years.

A year younger than Dorian, Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) in another rising star of the sport. The reigning ITU Under-23 World Champion finished ninth in Yokohama a year ago in what was only his second World Triathlon Series start. He matched that position in Gold Coast recently and will feel confident of continuing that good form in Japan this coming weekend.

 


 

Discovery World Triathlon Cape Town, 24 April 2016

 

Flora Duffy vs Sarah True

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2015 was a standout year for Bermuda’s two-time Olympian, Flora Duffy. Finishing the season ranked seventh in the Columbia Threadneedle Rankings, Flora also earned her first career World Triathlon Series podium finishes in Abu Dhabi (third) and Edmonton (second). With back-to-back fourth place finishes in the first two events of 2016, Flora is in fine form and currently ranked second. She will aim to extend her medal collection over the Sprint distance in Cape Town and return to the podium once again.

With overall Silver (2014) and Bronze (2015) in the season ending Columbia Threadneedle Rankings over the last two years, Sarah True is a proven performer. With Olympic Games selection already achieved, Sarah will be looking for Cape Town to kick-start her 2016 campaign after frustrating races in Abu Dhabi and Gold Coast. Fourth at the London 2012 Olympics, expect True to bounce back to form very soon as she continues her drive towards an Olympic podium in Rio.

 

Henri Schoeman vs Richard Varga

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For our men’s head-to-head, we have selected two of the finest swimmers we’ve seen in the sport for many years.

Two years ago in Cape Town, Henri and Richard headed out the field in the opening 1.5km swim, recording identical times. Just two weeks ago in Gold Coast, they did exactly the same again. However, to acknowledge these fine athletes as ‘swimmers’ would be to underestimate their wider multisport talents.

Henri Schoeman has finished in the top ten in World Triathlon Series events six times, with career-best fourth place finishes in Kitzbuhel (2013) and Stockholm (2015). A winner on the ITU World Cup circuit, he also won Commonwealth Games Silver as a member of the South African 4xMixed Relay team in Glasgow.

Richard Varga has cracked the WTS top ten on three occasions as well as winning the ITU Aquathlon World Championships no less than four times.

This pairing was separated by just nine seconds at the finish line in Australia two weeks ago. Who will win the head-to head this time around?

 


 

Jewel World Triathlon Gold Coast, 9 April 2016

 

Fernando Alarza vs Vicente Hernandez

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With five-time World Champion Javier Gomez and 2015 World Triathlon Chicago winner Mario Mola already selected, it’s clear that qualifying for the men’s Spanish Olympic team will be one challenging feat. It is impressive, therefore, that the Spanish Federation has athletes of the highest quality battling for their third place in Rio too.

Fernando started this season strongly with an impressive fourth place in Abu Dhabi, while Vicente bounced straight back from a disappointing 34th position to take second just a week later at the Mooloolaba ITU World Cup. With both athletes having performed well in the Gold Coast last year, look for them to excel once again as the goal of a debut Olympic qualification shines brightly.

 

Erin Densham vs Emma Moffatt

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As if home soil wasn’t motivation enough, the lure of Olympic selection will also be driving the Australian women. They have shown such strength-in-depth that selecting their final team for Rio 2016 will be a tough decision. There is one automatic qualification slot on offer to the first Australian athlete to finish in the top ten to add further incentive.

Erin Densham and Emma Moffatt know all about the Olympic Games. Not only are they two-time Olympians, but both have earned bronze medals at the biggest event in the sport. Can one, or both, make it to Rio for a third Olympic Games appearance… and perhaps even a second medal?

 

Helen Jenkins vs Jodie Stimpson

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Having both finished on the podium at the opening World Triathlon Series race in Abu Dhabi last month, it is difficult to believe that one of these fine athletes will not make it to the Olympic Games this summer in Rio. However, such was the quality of the performances of Non Stanford and Vicky Holland in 2015, that only one slot remains on the British team.

Helen is a two-time World Champion and already a double Olympian. Jodie is a four-time World Triathlon Series winner and the reigning Commonwealth Games Champion. Gold Coast is a head-to-head for Olympic selection for the British team. The first one to cross the finish line punches a ticket for Rio. Who will prevail in this ‘race within a race’?

 


 

ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi, 4-5 March 2016

The first head-to-heads look at some experienced athletes and Olympic encounters….

 

Nicola Spirig vs Lisa Nordén

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At the London 2012 Olympic Games, Nicola Spirig (SUI) and Lisa Nordén (SWE) produced one of the closest finishes in the history of our sport, resulting in a photo finish to determine who would be the Olympic Gold medal winner – with Spirig, just, getting the verdict.

The opening round in Abu Dhabi will represent the first World Triathlon Series event that both athletes have competed in together since that memorable day in Hyde Park almost four years ago. Could we see something similar in Rio this summer?

 

Sven Riederer vs Courtney Atkinson

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When it comes to experience, few athletes can match the longevity of Sven Riederer (SUI) and Courtney Atkinson (AUS).

An Olympic Bronze medal winner 12 years ago, Abu Dhabi will represent the 46th World Triathlon Series start for the consistent Swiss athlete who has already been selected by his country for what will be his fourth Olympic Games in Rio this summer.

Twice an Olympian himself, we thought Atkinson had retired from World Triathlon Series racing in 2012, but last year he returned with a very impressive 10th position on the Gold Coast. He is aiming to make his third consecutive Australian Olympic team this summer and will want to get 2016 off to a positive start in Abu Dhabi.