With 70 men and 42 women from right across the continents lining up for the 2022 World Triathlon U23 Championships in Abu Dhabi on Friday morning, all will be looking to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winners Csongor Lehmann (HUN) and Emma Lombardi (FRA).
Athletes born in 1999 or after are eligible, and while only one of last year’s men’s top 10 in Edmonton – Valentin Morlec – returns for another shot at this year’s title, Kate Waugh (GBR), Annika Koch (GER) and Maria Tomé (POR) are all back on the hunt for a first world title along with a host of talented debutants including South African Jamie Riddle and Italy’s Bianca Seregni.
The bike course will differ marginally to that of the elites, with an extra technical section making each loop slightly longer and as such it becomes an 8-lap rather than 9-lap 40km ride to follow the 1.5km swim. Off the bikes, it will be a hot, flat 4-lap and 10km run to glory.
Jamie Riddle made his WTCS debut in Abu Dhabi 12 months ago, and it is testament to his fearless racing that he has been a major feature at the top level since. Kicking off 2022 with a pair of Africa Triathlon Cup wins, an excellent race in Leeds was followed up with a 15th place in Hamburg and 6th at the Commonwealth Games, all earning him the number one and planting the young South African firmly among the title favourites.
Silver at the 2021 WTCS Hamburg was a huge moment in the young career of Paul Georgenthum less than a month after a disappointing 16th place in Edmonton. He arrives in Abu Dhabi seeking, much like compatriot Morlec, to build consistency to go with his big moments and head into the off season with a World Championship medal.
Dylan McCullough (NZL) is one of the more established names returning for another crack at the world title. Finishing 12th last year and with some eye-catching displays since, so far his 2022 has included a major crash in WTCS Leeds, a solid return to Series action in Hamburg and a top 10 Commonwealth Games finish in Birmingham.
Czech number two Radim Grebik scored his first Series top 20 in Hamburg four months ago and could be one to watch along with Netherlands’ Mitch Kolkman after a string of strong performances by the Dutchman that began with 4th at last year’s Junior World Championships.
Another rising Brazilian talent following on the heels of Miguel Hidalgo is Antonio Bravo Neto. Recent runner up in the U23 Americas Triathlon Championships Montevideo and World University Champion in Maceio in September, Bravo is the sole South American on the start line and could be ready to thrive in the expected heat.
Mexico is well represented in Abu Dhabi, Aram Michell Penaflor Moysen and Jorge Alarcon Familiar the two looking best-placed to provide the country’s podium potential, particularly given Penaflor’s excellent top 10 in the recent Vina del Mar World Cup.
The powerful stroke of Egypt’s number one Seifeldeen Ismail could see him among the first out of the water along with Italian Alessio Crociani, and Britain’s Daniel Dixon will want to continue putting his bike accident at the Junior World Championships last year behind him with another assured display like the one that earned him 12th at Birmingham’s Commonwealth Games and a standout 4th place at the Arena Games in Singapore.
Davis Bove spearheads the USA’s medal challenge, Max Stapley returns to the blue carpet for the first time since the Bergen World Cup in August after an excellent start to his year at both Arena Games and World Cup level along with Italian Nicolo Strada. Japan’s Kyotaro Yosikawa has produced some eye-catching displays over recent months, not least his front-pack moments alongside Vincent Luis at WTCS Bermuda, and is another firmly on the ones-to-watch list.
Britain’s Kate Waugh is one of the most experienced of all the athletes lining up on the quest for U23 gold, and with a Junior Worlds silver (2017) and bronze (2018), U23 Worlds 4th and 10th and no fewer than four World Cup podiums already to her name, a first title will be a huge target in Abu Dhabi for the 23-year-old with plenty of big-stage know-how.
Annika Koch earned a U23 bronze in Edmonton last year and has since won World Cup gold in Huatulco and more recently silver in Tongyeong, marking the German out again as one of the favourites to feature among the medals again this time around.
Italy’s Bianca Seregni showed her mettle on one of the toughest World Cup circuits out there by winning silver in the Czech hills of Karlovy Vary in September at the end of a gruelling battle that she led for much of. Regularly first out of the water – notably alongside Flora Duffy in her top 10 WTCS Bermuda showing two weeks ago – Seregni is as tough as they come and will be fired up for another big performance at the end of a huge year.
Much the same can be said of compatriot Beatrice Mallozzi, gutsy 2019 Junior World Champion and a regular in and around World Cup top 10s ever since, though yet to make a similar impact at the WTCS level.
A top 10 finish for Cecilia Sayuri Ramirez Alavez in Vina del Mar followed her Americas Triathlon Championship U23 gold and, as one of a crop of exciting young Mexican athletes coming through on the big stage including Valencia World Cup silver medallist Anahi Alvarez Corral, Abu Dhabi looks like providing a timely opportunity to showcase her significant abilities once more.
Australia’s Matilda Offord was able to spread her racing wings beyond Oceania in mid-2022 and with some success, a notable WTCS Montreal showing setting her up for a big showing here, while Denmark’s Anne Holm finally found her first top 10 World Cup finish just at the right time in Miyazaki at the end of October.
Junior Aquathlon World Champion and elite silver medallist Marta Kropko leads the line for Hungary and Netherlands’ Barbara de Koning concludes a busy first full year on the triathlon front line that began with an Arena Games tour and included no fewer than five Series events.
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