With the Olympic Qualification period closing on 14 June, this weekend’s World Triathlon Cup Huatulco represents a massive final opportunity for the athletes to climb the rankings and put themselves in the picture for national selection and a seat on the plane to Tokyo.
The sprint distance course takes in a one-lap, 750m swim in the bay of Santa Cruz beach, leading into a four-lap, 20km bike course that traverses the town with two long, straight sections and a couple of tight, more technical turns, and a two-lap run finishing in Santa Cruz Plaza. You can watch all the weekend’s action from Mexico on TriathlonLive.tv.
Women’s race preview
After Flora Duffy withdrawing at the last minute due to some minor problems after her outstanding performance in WTCS Leeds, all eyes will be set on the local athletes. Mexico is of course well represented in Huatulco, with Cecilia Perez, Jessica Romero Tinoco and Michelle Flipo part of an 11-strong delegation ready to toe the line. Perez finished 6th here in 2019 and 5th in the Lima World Cup, the Pan-American Games bronze medallist giving some of her best performances on her home continent.
A bronze medallist here in 2019, Austria’s Lisa Perterer was one of the first athletes confirmed for Tokyo 2020, and will be looking for a confidence-boosting race to kick-start her Olympic build-up.
No fewer than nine Japanese athletes will also start, Niina Kishimoto, Yuka Sato and Juri Ide with the most potential to work their way onto the podium ahead of the team selection for a massive home Olympic Games.
Elizabeth Bravo (ECU) is another experienced athlete who has registered some of her best results when racing closer to home and was third in Lima but also scored an excellent 5th place finish in Mooloolaba last year and can certainly be a significant podium threat.
The strong USA squad includes Kirsten Kasper, bronze medallist in the Lisbon World Triathlon Cup less than a month ago, alongside Renee Tomlin and Erika Ackerlund, all of whom have the ability to put together a medal-winning race.
The ASICS World Triathlon Team comes together once again in Mexico under coach Claudia Beristain. Argentina’s Romina Biagioli, Slovakian Romana Gajdosova, Cuba’s Leslie Amat and Romania’s Antoanela Manac are the female members, with Manac still hoping to achieve Europe’s ‘New Flag’ starting berth for Tokyo 2020.
Luisa Baptista makes her first start since being confirmed for the Brazil team for Tokyo and will use the race to gauge where she needs to focus her training in the lead up to the Games.
Yuliya Yelistratova arrives off the back of a Europe Triathlon Cup win in Dnipro last weekend and has history of good performances in Mexico in the past, including bronze in Huatulco back in both 2016 and 2013 as well as in Cozumel in 2014. Few on the start line know the course as well as the Ukrainian, who has six appearances here over the years reaching back to 2009.
Men’s race preview
Back to the start list and wearing the number one comes Tyler Mislawchuk, fresh from an extended training block in Hawaii and Arizona and now ready to rediscover his 2019 form that saw victory on this very course. Bad luck on the bike in Lisbon ended his challenge after a good swim three weeks ago, and the hot temperatures expected in Mexico are likely to suit the slight Canadian once more as he builds towards Tokyo.
Aaron Royle arrives after a good showing at WTCS Leeds and knowing that a third and final Australian men’s place in Japan is in the balance as he currently occupies 29th spot in the Olympic rankings.
Mexico’s Pan-American Games champion Crisanto Grajales will be hoping to fire up the crowd on a course that has historically not seen his best performances. Teammate Rodrigo Gonzalez delivered the goods back in 2018 to edge Manoel Messias into second, and in 2015 it was the Irving Perez show here, so Grajales will be motivated to join the list of Huatulco’s homegrown heroes.
Brazil’s Messias also starts, ready to put a disappointing weekend in Lisbon behind him and power up for the kind of finish that saw him fly to World Triathlon Cup gold in Lima two years ago.
With only five places between them on the Olympic ranking, US duo Eli Hemming and Kevin McDowell will both be hungry for the kind of performance that will convince the selectors of their value on the team for Tokyo, McDowell’s 11th place at WTCS Yokohama a firm reminder of his ability while Hemming has a handful of Cup podiums over the years and will be just as laser-focussed on the task ahead.
But Hemming will not only be thinking on the selection panel. In order for the USA team to keep his third man in Tokyo, Hemming (currently ranked 30) needs to stay within the top 30 at the Olympic rankings after the race, a position that McDowell can not get even if winning the race. He should keep an eye on Aaron Royle (currently ranked 29th), Crisanto Grajales (currently 31st) and of course, on whatever happens on the Oceania Continental Championships in Port Douglas early Saturday morning, where Luke William (AUS) -currently ranked 33rd- will be fighting for some really valuable points that could potentially give the Aussie team an extra ticket to Tokyo 2020.
Talented young Israel star Ran Sagiv is due a good result after his superb form of 2019 was disrupted by the break in competition, and scored a fifth place here two years ago.
In the battle for the Europe New Flag spot, Russell White (IRL) is in pole position, but only a handful of places separate him from Ognjen Stojanovich (SRB), Richard Varga (SVK) and Stefan Zachaus (LUX).
The ASICS World Triathlon Team is represented by Diego Moya (CHI), Ognjen Stojanovich (SRB) and Mohamad Alsabbagh (SYR), with the Syrian still chasing his Olympic dreams.