American Hunter Kemper finally found gold and the World Cup podium also welcomed two brand new medallists in a thrilling men’s race in Ishigaki.
In a race that had plenty of breaks and surprises, it was the three-time Olympian Kemper, Russian Artem Parienko and Poland’s Marek Jaskolka who came away with the medals and a slice of history in Ishigaki.
For Kemper, that was recording his first World Cup win since 2005. It was the first World Cup medal for both Parienko, who claimed silver, and Jaskolka, who claimed bronze.
Jaskolka’s medal also has a special place in ITU history, it was the first World Cup medal won by a Polish triathlete.
Kemper’s win was even sweeter given he had finished second twice in Ishigaki, 2005 and 2006, both times behind five-time winner Courtney Atkinson (AUS).
But Atkinson was not racing in 2011 and Kemper said before the race he would take advantage of his absence. He did that in emphatic style, as well as his first World Cup win in six years, he was the first American to win Ishigaki in its 16-year history.
Kemper said it felt good to be back on top, particularly after two seasons struck with injury.
“I was second in 2006 to Courtney Atkinson, and as you know he does well on this course, but it felt good to finally come through with a victory,” Kemper said.
“It’s my second race of the year, and it feels good to win in Ishigaki. It’s a beautiful place. I’ve had injuries for the past two years—it’s been very difficult since Beijing in 2008, and this is my first World Cup win in a while. So it feels good to be back on top of the podium, and win here in Ishigaki in front of the Japanese people, who have dealt with so much the past month or six weeks, it feels good to celebrate even if just for a few hours.”
Jaskolka has been competing on the ITU World Cup circuit since 2003 and had reached the podium in European Cup and Pan American Cup events, but his best result at a World Cup had been seventh. He claimed that result three times, in Tongyeong 2008, Tiszaujvaros 2006 and Madrid 2007. Jasolka represented Poland at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, but failed to finish.
“Yeah, it’s amazing,” Jaskolka said. “After two years of sickness and injuries, I’m back. I’m really surprised that I got third here. It was such a strong field. I’m just happy. Three weeks ago, I raced in Valparaiso for an Pan American Cup, and I applied the same strategy. I just stayed behind the other guys and waited for the last lap, because it’s my strongest lap, and it worked out.”
Parienko made the jump to the elite men from juniors in 2007, and since then has reached the podium at several European Cup events, but had never finished higher than 9th in a World Cup race.
“The finish was very hard. I had to run much faster, and I was able to take second place,” Parienko said.
The men’s race started in a cloudy afternoon in Ishigaki, which is the longest running World Cup in ITU history, and it was the Russian brothers Ivan Vasiliev and Denis Vasiliev who set a quick pace. They were joined by fellow Russian’s Vladimir Turbaevskiy and Igor Polyanskiy and Hirokatsu Tayama (JPN) and Andrea Salvisberg (SUI) in the first group out of transition.
But the Vasiliev brothers decided to take the race into their own hands and quickly broke away.
In the second lap of the bike, Jens Toft (DEN) pulled away from the main pack and joined the Russian brothers in the lead. The top group of three made an escape and gained 50 seconds against the main pack of 40 athletes coming into transition.
But as it turned out, 50 seconds was not enough to edge out the top runners. Kemper and Spaniard Ivan Rana (ESP) caught the leaders on the first lap of run before Kemper took the lead solo in the second lap and held it until the finish.
The other podium spots were undecided right until the very end. Rana, who was close behind Kemper almost the whole final lap, was out-sprinted in the final 400 metres as Parienko flew down the main stretch and edged out Jaskolka in a thrilling finish.
The Ishigaki ITU Triathlon World Cup is the longest running ITU World Cup event, having been held every year since 1996. The island, approximately 2,000km southwest of Tokyo, has become a triathlon mecca in Japan. Before the women’s race, over 1,600 triathletes from all over the region participated in the age-group races.