As ITU wraps up the last major competition of the year with the Tongyeong World Cup, action is anything but slowing down in what promises to be a power-player packed race in South Korea on Saturday. Top athletes like Emma Jackson (AUS), Ai Ueda (JPN), Alexander Bryukhankov (RUS) and Henri Schoeman (RSA) will toe the line this weekend in the hunt for final Olympic qualification points this season.
The women’s race bodes a deep international field headed by this year’s seventh-ranked WTS finisher Jackson. The Aussie enjoyed one of her best seasons to date with top three finishes in Hamburg and London. The tough bike course, which features two hills on each lap, suits Jackson’s strong cycling skills as she proved last year when she won the race.
But with Japan’s Ai Ueda and Yuka Sato on the list, in addition to Maaike Caelers (NED) and Ainhoa Murua (ESP), taking home the title will be no easy task. The Japanese women have both risen to the occasion this year under hot and humid conditions, and could threaten on the flat 10km run.
Caelers, who endured a year of illness and injury, made it back on top the podium with a riveting run two weeks ago in Alanya. If her form there is any indicator, the Dutch triathlete could be tough to beat on the run.
The young rising star Gillian Backhouse (AUS) will join Jackson as a part of a strong Australian team that also features Felicity Sheedy-Ryan. Both Duathlon World Champions, expect the athletes from Down Under to dominate the bike course.
Alexander Bryukhankov lines up as the man to beat, but with two consecutive World Cup races on his record, the Russian won’t be as fresh as top competitor Henri Schoeman (RSA). Both strong swimmers and cyclists, the pair will be crucial for any hopes in a bike breakaway.
Four-time Olympian Hunter Kemper (USA) clocked the fastest run split of the Cartagena World Cup reaffirming the speed that got him to those four Olympics. He joins a deep field of American men that includes Cozumel bronze medallist Joe Maloy and superstar runners Alan Webb and Lukas Verzbicas.
Under the mentorship of the High Performance Coach Mick Delamotte from Australia, seven athletes from three continents will compete in Tongyeong with the support of ITU Development. The Team ITU members are Ron Darmon (ISR), Jason Wilson (BAR), Mareja Simic (SLO), Kaidi Kivioja (EST), Aleksandr Latin (EST), Felipe Van de Wyngard (CHI) and Lawrence Fanous (JOR).
The elite women will start the day at 8am, while the men’s competition follows at 11am. Follow the event live on triathlon.org/live and on twitter @triathlonlive.