It was not the day Australia’s elite women triathletes would have hoped for at the 2019 Tokyo Olympic Qualification Event in Odaiba Park today, but they got their first taste of what to expect next year and will continue to work towards their Olympic ambitions.
On a day when the heat was a factor for the entire field it was 2012 London Olympian Emma Jackson that produced glimpses of that form once again and backed up her recent WTS Edmonton win, finishing top Australian in 15th place.
The Standard distance race (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run) was reduced to a 5km run due to the ‘Extreme Level (32)’ conditions expected in the last 5km. The ITU, in conjunction with all parties, made the decision to put athlete safety first.
Speaking to Triathlon Australia Media, Jackson said it was a tough day out but there is plenty to work on.
“I had a really good swim, probably my best ever, coming out towards the front.
“I still think it was a decent race, it wasn’t what I wanted or when I was racing where I thought I would end up, so a bit of disappointment but also positives,” Jackson said.
“I just tried to position myself well and stay in the pack but by half way of the bike I was finding it quite hard with the girls attacking and going strong the whole way."
“Flora, Jess and Georgia were really pushing the pace and keeping it up, unfortunately on the 5th lap I just couldn’t hang on any more, got dropped, rode a couple of laps by myself then rode with the chase pack.”
“I’m not exactly happy with the result but I was still top Australian and there were some positives to take from the race with the swim and first half of the bike, I was pretty happy with how I executed that.”
On a day where little went the way of Rio Olympian Ashleigh Gentle, down 1min 46sec after the swim, she was also focussed on the learnings to take from the race.
“It was a really tough day and hard to be motivated after making some mistakes in the swim and feeling super flat,” said Gentle.
“But I think it’s still a good opportunity to, I guess, see how the preparation went. I did some heat prep, we did some pre cooling, it’s such a different race when you racing in these conditions and we hardly race in these conditions.”
“Despite not having a great result you can learn so much just being here and experiencing that and I think I’ll appreciate that a lot more once I’ve come away from it and look back and can actually see that was very advantageous to be here.”
The other Australian results Natalie Van Coevorden finished 28th, Jaz Hedgeland 36th and Emma Jeffcoat 44th.
Jess Learmonth (GBR) dominated the swim leg from the start, stretching out the field with many athletes unable to hold onto the fast pace and she lead out onto the 8-lap technical bike leg solo. World Triathlon Series leader Katie Zaferes (USA) leapt out of the chase group to chase down Learmonth.
Eventually a twelve strong lead pack formed and included Americans Summer Rappaport, Kirsten Kasper and Taylor Spivey, Georgia Taylor Brown (GBR), dual World Champion Flora Duffy (BER) and Jackson. The pack rode strongly until Zaferes crashed, also bringing down fellow USA athlete Kirsten Kasper. Whilst Kasper was able to continue on, unfortunately Zaferes was forced to pull out of the race. This presented an opportunity for the lead pack to pick up the pace.
Duffy showed she was back to her brilliant best in her first race back in over a year forcing the pack to keep up with her brutal pace. Duffy’s aggressive riding resulted in several athletes being dropped, with Jackson also unable to hold the pace in the 40km bike leg and being swallowed by the chase pack coming into T2 in 18th position almost two minutes behind the leaders.
As they came off the bike it looked set to come down to a 5km foot race between Duffy, Learmonth and Taylor-Brown.
However the effort from Duffy saw training partners Learmonth and Taylor-Brown pull away from Duffy, who safely held down the bronze medal spot. As the British pair hit the blue carpet together and ran toe to toe, they crossed the line holding hands which was resulted initially in a photo finish which was awarded to Learmonth. On review and in line with ITU rules the pair were disqualified.
Although they appealed the decision, this was upheld, resulting in Duffy being evaluated to first place, Alice Betto (ITA) in second and Vicky Holland (GBR) in third for the official podium places.
15th Emma Jackson 1:42:55
24th Ashleigh Gentle 1:43:49
28th Natalie Van Coevorden 1:44:01
36th Jaz Hedgeland 1:44:58
44th Emma Jeffcoat 1:46:23m