As a scintillating 2023 men’s season reaches its climax at the Championship Finals Pontevedra on 23 September, eight men could mathematically become World Champion in Spain. Realistically, there are five left in the running for the year’s biggest prize and Series earnings of up to US$170,000.
There is a familiar feel to things ahead of last year’s decider when Hayden Wilde led Alex Yee by the finest of margins going in. Then, with all eyes on that in-form duo, Leo Bergere pulled the rabbit of the hat, overcoming a massive 357 points deficit thanks to a superb first Series victory, the win augmented by the performances of Matt Hauser, Jelle Geens and Morgan Pearson who out-paced the two favourites to leave Bergere as champion.
A win at the Championship Finals is therefore the golden egg, worth a massive 1250 points. That amount decreases by 7.5% per position thereafter and will be added to each athlete’s four best scores from the rest of the Series (including Paris Test Event) to determine the final standings and, ultimately, our 2023 World Champion.
Yee ready to stand up and be counted
It is with the man going in to Pontevedra as the number one in the world, Alex Yee, that any assessment of title potential should start. The 25-year-old said ahead of bronze in Hamburg that he had been focussed on the Olympic distance in training, and that couldn’t have been more evident than when he took the tape and the Test Event gold on the Ponte Alexandre III in August by a handsome margin.
Ranked number one thanks to wins in Abu Dhabi, Cagliari and Paris and bronze in Hamburg, unlike last year, Yee goes in to Pontevedra knowing that one more gold and the title is his.
Win for Wilde and the title is his
So does New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde, who found himself in that no.1 position last time out, and for who the disappointment of finishing 6th at those Abu Dhabi Finals and missing out on the title by one place – as had Yee with his 4th – ran deep as Bergere grabbed the win.
Victories in this year’s Yokohama Olympic distance and Hamburg Super-Sprint format underlined his supreme adaptability, that Hamburg win his first over Yee with both finishing and thanks to a moment of brilliance into the final transition to see him home. Those are the fine margins that could prove decisive once again this time around.
Should neither win, whoever finishes ahead of the other will be world champion, but if Vasco Vilaça wins then he can become champion if Yee is 4th or lower and Wilde 3rd or lower, and victory for Bergere or Dorian Coninx could also still tip the title their way.
Vilaça lies in wait
He may not have won so far in 2023, but Portugal’s Vasco Vilaca has been the very model of consistency and shown he has the mettle to outsprint Yee and Coninx on his way to silvers in Hamburg and Paris. Another silver in Abu Dhabi and bronze in Yokohama see him in third with one race to go and sitting 215 points off the leader. It would be a cold heart that couldn’t find joy in the gutsy young talent winning the year’s biggest prize.
Then there’s Leo Bergere, once more lying in wait in 4th place in the rankings, utterly consistent, quietly confident, ready to pounce. Second, third, fifth (twice) and sixth are his results so far in 2023. The deficit he made up was 360 points last year, this time it stands at 485 points, meaning Yee must finish 8th or lower, Wilde 7th or lower and Vilaça 5th or lower. Surely he couldn’t do it again?
And that’s not taking into account Dorian Coninx, who stands just over 500 points adrift of Yee but is another of those athletes that can never be written off. Bronze in the Test Event topped off 4th in Cagliari and Yokohama and a fifth-place finish in the season opener in Abu Dhabi… could there be another huge French turnaround in 2023?
Final standings simulation
Who needs what to be crowned world champion