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 11.30am the following day awarding the very first medals of the Games. The stage is set for another classic Commonwealth Games battle as triathlon makes its fifth appearance on the schedule across a sprint distance course. 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. The rivalries are fierce and Friday afternoon’s action will be relentless, and don’t miss Sunday’s Mixed Relay and PTVI Para Triathlon action.
The first Bermudian ever to win an Olympic gold, Flora Duffy’s place in the history books of her home island is already secured, but being the first triathlete to successfully defend their Commonwealth Games title would certainly warrant an extra chapter. It was another great Emma Snowsill who won in Melbourne back in 2006, and as Duffy looks to surpass the Australian’s record three world titles this year, another Commonwealth crown would further underline her credentials as the greatest the sport has ever seen.
She will have the current number one Georgia Taylor-Brown to contend with, though, as well as a partisan crowd getting behind the home-nation athletes. Taylor-Brown finished second behind Duffy in Tokyo and again at last year’s WTCS Abu Dhabi, but since then, victory in Yokohama and silvers in Leeds and Montreal have put the Brit in pole position in the world title chase, and her current form will make her a hot favourite again in Birmingham.
Teammate Sophie Coldwell has also been putting together some exceptional swim-bike-run form, and after hitting back-to-back WTCS podiums in Leeds she will love being back in front of the home crowds and can be explosive over the sprint distance.
Scotland’s Beth Potter hit her first WTCS podium in Hamburg and will relish another shot at a Commonwealth Games medal – four years ago she became the first Scot to compete at the Games in different events, grabbing 12th in triathlon having previously finished fifth in the 10,000m back on home soil at Glasgow 2014, and her star has been in the ascension ever since.
Nobody on the start list has more Commonwealth Games experience Andrea Hansen (formerly Hewitt), who was third back in Melbourne 2006, fourth in Glasgow and 13th on the Gold Coast, and she is joined by fellow New Zealanders Nicole Van der Kaay and Ainsley Thorpe in the quest for medals.
The 2013 World Champion Non Stanford makes her return to the blue carpet for the first time since her top 10 finish at last year’s WTCS Abu Dhabi, representing Wales alongside Olivia Mathias and Issy Morris.
A strong Canadian trio of Dominika Jamnicky, the returning Amelie Kretz and Emy Legault will be looking to make a splash in both the individual and Mixed Relay, while Australia’s Natalie Van Coevorden, Charlotte McShane and Sophie Linn all have the potential to deliver eye-catching performances.
India’s Pragnya Mohan is among the names representing the emerging triathlon nations, as athletes from the likes of Mauritius, Namibia, Kenya and Trinidad and Tobago will also be ready to relish their moment in the spotlight against some of the biggest names in the sport.
For the full start lists, click here.
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.
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.
Preview of athletes representing smaller nations
For the likes of the home nations (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland), Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada, these are a major Games representing a four-yearly opportunity to shine in the middle (usually) of an Olympic cycle.
For the many athletes on the start lists from smaller triathlon nations such as India, Fiji, Cyprus, Mozambique, or the Solomon Islands, the Commonwealth Games can be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to share a start line with some of the biggest names on the circuit, to put their sport in the spotlight at home and maybe even grab a slice of history.
Among those on Friday’s start will be India’s Pragnya Mohan. A national champion in 2019 and individual bronze and Mixed Team Relay gold medallist at the South Asian Games that year, Pragnya hits Birmingham off the back of a solid training block and brimming with optimism for the challenge ahead.
“I am at my fittest ever and expect a personal best in Birmingham,” says Mohan. “As some of the best female triathletes in the world are from Commonwealth countries, I’ll be happy to get a position in the single digits, but otherwise it will be another race with women I have idolised, including Flora, Georgia and Non (who was at her peak when I started in 2013).”
She will also be able to form a Mixed Relay team alongside Adarsh Muralidharan Nair Sinimol, Vishwanath Yadav and Sanjana Sunil Joshi, the former having also been part of that South Asian Games victory three years ago and despite eyeing a top 6 finish on Sunday, Mohan is under no illusion as to the challenge of growing the sport back home.
“It will be good to showcase that there are many sports to pursue, and international success of a triathlete will raise interest – I hope to spark that fire. People in my other profession of Chartered Accountancy are extremely excited that a fellow CA is making it to the Commonwealth Games!”
Danica Spiteri will represent Malta, just as she did 8 years ago in Glasgow. Having had a baby in 2019, she has been fighting to get back to the fitness levels she showed training in Leeds with some of the names she will be alongside in Birmingham.
“I’d like to improve on my 15th place in Glasgow, the biggest moment in my career, but I know that this is an uncontrollable factor,” says Spiteri. “Going back for another Games feels surreal… I have been working hard for the past six months. I want to make the right decisions to be able to finish strongly. I love representing my country, it is something money can’t buy, and the level is improving locally there. The future looks good at home and the federation is looking towards youth-elite development pathways, so it is exciting to see the next generation of upcoming triathletes.”
It is a similar target that Panayiotis Antoniou is setting himself. The Cyprus national champion is determined to give everything he has in order to finish his first major Games satisfied with his result.
“I am very excited but also a little nervous to be on that start line with the top triathletes” admits Antoniou. “One day I would like to represent my country a an Olympic Games. We have very good facilities in Cyprus, with 8 small, local clubs and 5 or 6 coaches, so triathlon’s popularity is increasing every year but is still at a low level.”
Representing Namibia will be Divan Du Plooy, the 2021 Africa Triathlon Championships bronze medallist at U23 level. With the long-term goal of qualification for LA 2028 on his mind, the Commonwealth Games will provide both an excellent test and perfect motivation for what it will take to realise that dream.
“Running is my top discipline, then my brother got me into cycling. About four years ago I started swimming and have never looked back” says Du Plooy. “Triathlon is still small in Namibia, but we are trying hard to grow the sport and we have one club, three Level One coaches and one Level Two. I will be competing against the biggest names in world triathlon, – what an amazing experience to represent Namibia at such a big event.”
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