With the domination of the World Series by a handful of athletes, surprises are rare. While we hoped to see a new generation hatch quickly, the various national federations (NFs) are still trying to complete the puzzle. Given this perpetual challenge to develop athletes capable of responding to this task, the NFs are increasingly involved in the development of athletes.
Their role is simply to select the best athletes, but also to help them so they have all the necessary tools to succeed. To be successful at World Series level, athletes do not simply need to have talent, but must also be able to answer to the demands of each discipline. The specific demands of each discipline are very complex.
The intervention of the NFs is thus generally required. Judging on the results, the initiatives of these federations often result in success, and this gives us an indication on the possible success of future athletes. It is thus not surprising to see the domination of certain nations.
In 2015, we expect to see the United States, the UK, Canada and Australia at the forefront. France, Italy and Germany align young athletes that are already highly anticipated in 2015.
Who to watch for?
The United States has never been successful at the triathlon event at the Olympics. This is due to a culture dominated by long distance, non-drafting and a lack of structure for upcoming youths. To approach this issue, USAT has created a talent ID detection program. Using the NCAA to their advantage (specifically running and swimming), USAT has found phenomenal talent in the likes of Gwen Jorgensen. Another example would be Katie Zafares (born Hursey) who is also an athlete to watch for this year. She has a similar past to Jorgensen’s but has not been able to express her full potential in 2014 due to injury. A protege of Joel Filliol’s, Katie Zaferes could quickly rack up the podiums.
With Jorgensen and Sarah True (born Groff, 2nd overall in 2014), the United States will be the nation to beat this year. Similarly, Summer Cook could also prove to be a strong contender, coming out of the USAT academy. She recently won in a preparatory race beating Jodie Stimpson (UK).
Unlike on the men’s side, an athlete with solely a running past can quickly manage to win at the highest of levels due to the typical development of women’s races. That is not to say swimming can be disregarded, but there is a tendency for the quickest runners to often trump the field and finish on the podium, even with a sub-par swim. In this game, we have to watch for Brit, Emma Pallant. Having come from an exceptional running background, with very similar reference times to those of Gwen Jorgensen, she could make a quick leap this year. Coached by Michael Dillion and not a product of the British Program, it is difficult to know if there really will be a place for her on the « Olympic Project ».
Battling for spots with Helen Jenkins, Jodie Stimpson and Non Stanford, three World Series winners, selection will not be easy. Unfortunately, the greatest battle for the British will lie in the ability for these women to stay healthy. Non Stanford and Helen Jenkins have not been able to complete full seasons since their previous successes.
Another athlete who is at the beginning of her international career in triathlon (second season WTS) is the Belgian Claire Michel. Combining her past in running (NCAA, Oregon University) and high school swimming, along with greater experience (especially regarding open water skills), she could also turn out to be one of this year’s revelations.
It remains that things could be very different this year as it we notice the return of Anne Haug, Lisa Norden and Nicola Spirig. These three athletes are known to make the difference on the bike and follow this excellent effort through the running leg. The return of these athletes could be to the disadvantage of others on the circuit. Those who have weaknesses in swimming or biking could pay a stiff price.
Their impact in 2015 remainsuncertain . It could greatly benefit athletes like Andrea Hewitt. Very regular, she is always in the mix regardles of race dynamics. Smilarly, we must not forget women like Aileen Reid (born Morrison) and Emma Moffatt, and the experienced Australian Emma Jackson. They have experience of the circuit and know how to react to different racing scenarios. Let’s not forget the former U23 world champion in 2013, Charlotte McShane who should continue to improve in the global hierarchy.
Athletes return when it counts.
Some athletes find it difficult to maintain such high levels of racing following the Olympics. Of these though, some have to ability to produce stellar seasons when it counts. This was the case of Erin Densham. Qualifying for London was a surprise given the dominance of the 3 « Emma’s » (Moffatt, Snowsill, Jackson). She clearly demonstrated her class and hushed many critics when she brought bronze home for Australia at the Olympics in 2012. Her return to the highest level will be an interesting one to follow but it will take time and will.
Most of the « veterans » of the circuit remain unknowns this season. WIll their maturity allow them to gradually set the tone on the circuit this year? Unfortunately « veterans » like Nicola Spirig (SUI) prefer to delay their return to WTS although Brett Sutton likely has a plan in mind.
Barbara Riveros (CHI) also remains a mystery. Training with Jamie Turne and his squad, she could find her best level once again.
A strong Canadian contingent?
Like in the mens race, World Series victories could be reserved for complete athletes. The best armed nation as a whole is probably Canada as it develops complete athletes who have been trained for triathlon.
Although Triathlon Canada has not been at the forefront of the international scence in recent years, their work with national coach Jamie Turner has allowed athletes to develop in an engaging and stimulating environment, allowing them to develop a very specific skillset.
Sarah Anne Brault, Ellen Pennock and Amelie Kretz have the chance to share training with Gwen Jorgensen and even Anne Haug (invited). Amelie Kretz, will debut in World Series this year. Her profile should enable her to quickly find her spot on the circuit. Joanna Brown alternated good and bad seasons. Similarly to Amelie Kretz and Ellen Pennock, all of them were Canadian medalist in the U23 World Championship in the past and they are far from saying their last word.
To complete the team we should find Kirsten Sweetland and Paula Findlay (coached by Siri Lindley) again at their best. There is no doubt that they have the ability to grab a spot on the podium. When these athletes are confident and healthy, they are strong contendors.
In Auckland, 6 canadians will be present; a record for a « northern » country.
In the corridors of the ITU, it is often said that the Germans and Russians typically raise their standards in the approach of an Olympic Games.
The German team will count on the junior world champion, Laura Lindemann and U23 world champion, Sophia Saller .Both athletes could quickly stand out on the sprint distance.
Obviously, in this new emerging generation, France can also count on the likes of Audrey Merle and Cassandre Beaugrand. Both athletes are still very far from reaching their full potential though. France will also count on the return of Emmie Charayron. Now coached by Laurent Vidal and sharing her training with Andrea Hewitt and Alexandra Cassan-Ferrier, the former world junior champion (2009) could find new form.
Over the years we have seen Charlotte Bonin (ITA) progress season after season. It will be interesting to see how far this can get her. Her swimming background allows her to be in all the right places coming off the bike. She may perhaps be assissted by teammate Alice Betto.
Several athletes now come into question like, Japanese Juri Ide, Ai Ueda and Yuka Sato. Ueda can be effective when swimming is not followed by a hard effort on the bike. Juri Ide has consistently progressed in 2014 to pick up his first WTS podium in Chicago.
New Zealand in known to develop very strong athletes on the bike. Nicky Samuel and Kate Mcilroy will be interesting wild cards on courses with a demanding bike.
Polish Agnieszka Jerzyk, former U23 world champion had created the surprise in Yokohama by landing herself on the podium. There is no doubt that if she is able to improve hier swimming she can be an extremely dangerous athlete.
Finally, the biggest surprise could come from the return of Vanessa Fernandes. She ran a half marathon in January in the time of 1:14:17. Shehas announced her desire to make her return to triathlon. For now, we are still waiting to see her toe the line.