Long regarded as England’s ‘second city’, Birmingham is all set to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, with the Opening Ceremony on 28 July and an eagerly awaited men’s race at 11am the following day awarding the very first medals of the Games.
Four years have passed since Henri Schoeman (RSA) was triumphant on the Gold Coast and while a lot has happened in the world since on and off the blue carpet, one thing is for certain: the 2018 champion in Australia returns to defend his title, but up against a very different-looking start list that includes debut-making favourites for whom the last four years have seen stratospheric rises.
The sprint-distance course takes in a 750m swim of Powell’s Pool lake in Sutton Park before transitioning to a fast 4-lap 20km bike through the city streets and rounding off with a 2-lap, 5km run course back in Sutton Park. For the lowdown on where to watch, the list of broadcasters can be found here.
Two of the men making their Commonwealth Games debuts are also among the favourites for gold in Birmingham. Having locked horns repeatedly since their breakthrough races at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Alex Yee and Hayden Wilde have also dominated WTCS racing so far in 2022 with two wins each.
Their rivalry adds an extra dimension to the men’s race, so with the pair’s run form currently unparalleled and the 750m swim unlikely to open things up too much out of the water, whoever is able to keep the freshest legs coming off the 20km bike could be ready to strike gold. Throw in an unfortunate crash between them the last time Yee raced on home soil at WTCS Leeds, and the stage is set for plenty of fireworks on Friday, as current number one Wilde looks to silence the crowds once more by racing off the front and dictating the action.
Looking to stand in their way are the likes of Tyler Mislawchuk, the Canadian talent who took 12th last time out on the Gold Coast and has been battling his way back to full fitness after an achilles injury took him out of Olympic contention a year ago in Tokyo. Second in the Huatulco World Cup last month, the 27-year-old will be hungry to show what he is capable of once more at a major Games.
As always, Australia arrive with a strong squad full of confidence, including 2018 silver medallist Jacob Birtwhistle. While Jake has struggled to hit those heights and match the double Series gold strike he produced back in 2019, compatriot Matthew Hauser has been quietly building his way up to the kind of form he has threatened for so long, landing a first WTCS podium in Hamburg after 4th place in Yokohama. The pair formed half of the gold-winning Mixed Relay squad four years ago, and third squad member Brandon Copeland is another face of the new generation showing their potential in 2022.
Joining Yee for England will be another rising talent, Samuel Dickinson, ready to make his mark after being the reserve for Tokyo 2020 and finally putting his injuries behind him, as well as the late replacement for injured Jonathan Brownlee, Daniel Dixon. Scotland have the experienced Grant Sheldon alongside Loughborough-based Cameron Main, who trains just an hour down the motorway from Sutton Park.
The South African delegation will be spearheaded by reigning champion Schoeman even if this time around the 30-year-old remains unsure of his race sharpness as he continues along the road back from an ankle injury that hit his Tokyo 2020 ambitions. Returning to international competition at the PTO Canadian Open last weekend, Schoeman was happy to have completed the course, but will still add some star quality to proceedings and joins another rising one to watch, Jamie Riddle, who made clear his ambitions on the World Triathlon Podcast.
Bermuda’s Tyler Butterfield takes the prize for being the only athlete in Birmingham to have raced in triathlon’s Commonwealth Games debut at Manchester 2002 and heads to his fourth and final edition eager to sign off from racing with a bang. Less established triathlon nations will also line up, with the likes of India, Ghana, Gibraltar, Malaysia and Solomon Islands all represented and looking to add another chapter in their respective countries’ triathlon stories this weekend.
Full start list available here.