Olympic Test Event

Ahead of the ITU World Triathlon Olympic Qualification Event in Tokyo, HUUB’s David Bishop talks about how Brits qualify, who is racing, and current uncertainty about the swim.

The Olympic test event is currently taking place on the streets of Tokyo City. The races are on the same course as the 2020 Olympic Games, providing an excellent opportunity to get to know the course and conditions, but also a chance to earn valuable Olympic ranking points.

On Thursday the women’s race takes place, on Friday the men’s race, and then the Paratriathlon events on Saturday. Sunday sees the final day of competition with the mixed relay, the last chance for nations to gain ranking points this year.

The Tokyo test event will vary in importance for each nation and its athletes. For some, the event is purely a chance for athletes to test the course and familiarise themselves with the environment and conditions they will race in. For others, the event will play a significant role in the selection of athletes for the 2020 Olympic Games, and we may even see some athletes selected after this weekend.

For the Brits, a podium finish for either HUUB’s Jonny Brownlee or Vicky Holland who are both past medallists will see them guarantee selection. There will more than likely be other nations that have similar criteria written into their selection policy, without a doubt heightening the level of competition over the next few days.

There are some notable absences from the start list, including Spain’s top performers. The non-attendance of Mario Mola, Javier Gomez, and Fernando Alarza, suggests Spain’s section criteria does not feature the test event and instead will focus on performances at WTS events.

Mola’s French training partner Vincent Luis is also absent from the start list. However, unlike Mola, his compatriots and rivals for selection have headed over to Tokyo, which indicates France are not overly concerned with performances at the test event. His absence also suggests Luis is confident of selection and happy to head to Tokyo in 2020 without racing on the course beforehand.

Nevertheless, the start lists suggest that most athletes see this as an important race, and for nearly all standing on the start line, it is a key opportunity for them to deliver a performance that will have some bearing on selection for the Olympics Games.

Many nations have used this as an opportunity to do a test run for 12 months time. Various federations travelled from training centres across Japan after acclimatising in the last few weeks and checking out training venues they will use in the lead up next year. It is not only the climate and time zone they will have to get used to but also food availability, accommodation, and Japanese culture and lifestyle.

To throw a cat amongst the pigeons, the format of the races this weekend is still under some uncertainty. After various issues with blue-green algae and high water temperatures, there are fears the water will be unsafe for athletes to swim in. If this is proven to be the case on race day, we may see a duathlon instead of a triathlon. We are told that these issues will be resolved next year.

As it stands, we could see the test event competed over a run-bike-run, and in that eventuality, we will almost certainly see some different results. Doubt will be cast over the event being used as a section race for any nation. The only thing that is for sure is that we will see some incredible racing over the four days.