After exactly two years of battling it out on the race course, the Olympic qualifying period finally comes to a close this weekend at the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama. Athletes have been accumulating points from World Cups, the World Triathlon Series and Continental competitions since May 2014. This Saturday, on the same course where the qualifying process started, athletes will fight it out one more time in a last effort to secure as many points as possible in the hopes of being named to the Olympic roster for Rio this August.
The suspense will be evident on Saturday as the Olympic fate of multiple men will be determined on the blue carpet in Japan.
One of the men who has already sealed his ticket to Rio, however, is Spaniard Mario Mola, who will be sporting the golden number one this weekend. By producing impeccable results so far this season – winning in Abu Dhabi, Mooloolaba, Gold Coast and a fourth place finish in Cape Town – he has held onto the Columbia Threadneedle leader position and has proved that he has no plans of handing it over.
But the Spaniard that still supports the Olympic weight on his shoulders is Fernando Alarza. He has yet been named to the Spanish Olympic team, yet his outcomes this year have been a good indication that he deserves it. He finished fourth in Abu Dhabi and then followed it up with a silver in Gold Coast and a career-first WTS victory in Cape Town. However, compatriot Vincente Hernandez is also in the running to make the Olympic team as he also has had two top-ten finishes in the WTS so far this year.
The Australian team has one more spot to claim on its men’s roster. While Aaron Royle and Ryan Bailie have officially secured their names to the list, the third and final position could go between Ryan Fisher and Jacob Birtwhistle, both of whom will race in Yokohama.
Some last remaining spots on the Rio table will see some men go head-to-head in order to clutch the valuable positions. Canada’s Kyle Jones is currently leading in qualifying points to become the last qualified athlete in the rankings system. However, Hungary’s Tamas Toth is not far behind, so getting so beating out the other and in the highest possible position will be important this weekend.
Only one man will secure a place in the Olympics as the “new flag” for each continent. For the America’s, the position is up for grabs between Jason Wilson of Barbados and Manuel Huerta of Puerto Rico. Wilson is leading in the points race heading into Yokohama, and also just beat out Huerta at the Huatulco World Cup last weekend. Huerta has opted to sit Yokohama out, meaning the pressure is left to Wilson to perform.
It is also a huge weekend for the U.S. men. No members have been named to the Olympic team so far, so every man on the start list this year is fighting to earn a place for the stars and stripes. Joe Maloy and Greg Billington are leading in the rankings system and currently have the greatest look to make Rio, especially after both men finished in the top ten in Gold Coast. But Kevin McDowell, Ben Kanute and Eric Lagerstrom all remain in the running for one of the three spots, so the pressure to perform will be high. A top three finish from any of them will mean they are automatically selected.
Mexico and Portugal are the last two National Federations to qualify three men to Rio. Canada, South Africa, Austria and Germany are the most severe threats to Mexico and Portugal, in that order. For Canada to become a three-man team, Tyler Mislawchuk needs, at minimum, a 15th place finish – and that is assuming Portugal’s Miguel Arraiolos finishes outside the top 33. In the same vein, Wian Sullwald (RSA) needs at least a 14th place finish to get to the Olympic Games.
The women will get the 2016 World Triathlon Yokohama underway at 10:06am on Saturday May 14, while the men will follow at 12:36pm local time. Follow all of the action live at triathlonlive.tv and on twitter @triathlonlive. Trifecta returns this year with new features. Create a new login and pick your favourites now at trifecta.usatriathlon.org.
Join the conversation with the hashtags #WTSYokohama and #CTrankings.