World Triathlon Paths to Paris: Emma Lombardi

19 April, 2024 | español

World Triathlon Paths to Paris: Emma Lombardi

There is the pressure of the Olympic Games and then there is the pressure of a home Olympic Games. However, from her training camp in Monte Gordo, Emma Lombardi (FRA) was sanguine as she spoke to World Triathlon in March for the latest instalment of the Paths to Paris series.

“I still need to get my ticket officially,” she said. “It’s a bit complicated but in Yokohama or Cagliari a top-6 could be enough, otherwise it will be at the discretion of the national director.”

Given that Lombardi has only once finished outside the top-10 at a WTCS race, maintaining a hit rate that already includes three silver medals, she can be confident of meeting the criteria.

“I will do everything I can to be in the top-6 and to be in Paris this summer.”

Stacking up the results

The French star is still eligible for U23 competition in 2024, making her success all the more remarkable. After only two seasons of racing in the WTCS, she has become a fixture at the front of the field. Has it actually been as easy as she has sometimes made it look?

“I was surprised! I only did one year of international racing in 2021 before stepping up to the WTCS. So when I arrived in 2022 I didn’t think it would be that fast and that I could aim to go to Paris.”

Furthermore, her phenomenal form has put an Olympic debut within touching distance. Lombardi, though, did not see it coming even as recently as two years ago.

“For me, it was a dream. I thought, ‘I’m still young, maybe it will be too early; maybe just focus on Los Angeles and take your time’.”

A 4th place on her WTCS debut in Yokohama made the triathlon world sit up and take notice. Since then, she has gone from strength to strength. Now, she is in the running to not simply qualify for Paris, but potentially to make it onto the podium.

“It would be amazing,” confessed Lombardi. “I want to be at my best if I’m going and it will be crazy.”

French triathlon embraces home-Games pressure

The nature of a home Olympics creates a slightly different challenge for athletes. While the classic pressures of qualification and racing remain, elements like home comforts and domestic support can be a boon.

After considering the advantages and disadvantages, Lombardi points out the pressure to perform.

“The federation is quite strict on the selection criteria, they aren’t easy,” she said. “So there is still a pressure to qualify and succeed.”

While Lombardi strives to make it to the Games, one of her compatriots has already ticked the qualification box. Notwithstanding that she will have to prove her fitness in 2024, Cassandre Beaugrand secured her spot on the back of her silver medal at the Paris Test Event last summer. She also won two WTCS races in 2023 and has established herself as a star of the sport.

The presence of a feted and more experienced teammate has its benefits.

“I think she’s more in the spotlight,” said Lombardi. “Maybe I can - not hide in her shadow - but take my time and do my thing and just enjoy the process.”

“She’s been there for a while on the circuit so we know her qualities and she has a bit more attention on her.”

Being so young and making her Olympic debut, Lombardi is happy to avert the media’s gaze. “For me, it’s fine. I can take my own path.”

Passing the Test with flying colours

At the same time, it says plenty of the strength of the French team that Lombardi could be shielded from any media focus. She finished 3rd overall in the 2023 Series, logging performances and moments that were worthy of a lot of attention.

“I was really happy after Cagliari. It was my first podium of the season and I was happy because I missed the front pack in the two races before, in Yokohama and Abu Dhabi, and in Cagliari I did the full race at the front.”

Emma Lombardi

“And of course the Test Event in Paris. It was a really good race. We had a lot of focus on the race and the federation really expected us to perform really well on the day.”

The Test Event also offered the chance to take some invaluable lessons ahead of the real thing.

“It was great to see the race venue and the race course. We managed to take some good information for this year.”

As strong as the French team are, Lombardi is conscious of the rivals that could stand in the way of a home triumph.

“Of course there is Great Britain, they have such a strong team. They were really good last year. Georgia (Taylor-Brown) missed a part of the season but we know how strong she is. Obviously Beth (Potter) and Sophie (Coldwell) won WTCS races last season. Kate (Waugh) was like a crescendo at every step of the season and finished really well.”

Lombardi also flagged the American and German women’s teams as further threats to French domination. On home turf, though, the team will be determined to make a statement.

Emma Lombardi 2

At the same time, the Paris Olympics offer a chance to reflect on how far Lombardi has come in a short space of time. The Games were announced back in 2017, when she had barely taken her first steps in the sport.

“I was just starting triathlon at the time. I was transitioning from swimming to triathlon but it was really slow at that moment.”

“I have always dreamed of going to the Olympics and when I saw the London Games I thought I wanted it. But then you have the dream and you have the reality and sometimes it doesn’t match. At that time I didn’t know if it would be possible.”

Fast forward to the start of 2024 and it is more than a mere possibility for Lombardi.

“It’s really crazy what has happened in just three years!”

With her rapid rise, it is becoming ever harder to deflect the attention that her performances demand.

“I’d prefer to go under the radar and to shock people at the Olympics. For now I’ve been the young one that has just arrived. I’m a bit of a step back but I like the position.”

In light of what we have seen from Lombardi over the past two seasons, there is only so much longer that she can stay in the shadows. Her path to Paris seems set to take her to the start line at minimum. On her current trajectory, it could take her to something even greater.


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