The road ahead to Paris for Team World Triathlon

by Ben Eastman on 19 Feb, 2024 03:41 • Español
The road ahead to Paris for Team World Triathlon

As the eyes of the triathlon world turn towards the Paris Olympic Games this summer, so too does the attention of Team World Triathlon. Established with the objective of supporting athletes from developing National Federations to compete at the World Cup level and qualify for the Olympics, the current Team contains a handful of members that harbour strong aspirations of toeing the start line in Paris.

Some spots almost secure
Leading the way will almost certainly be WTCS medallist and World Cup winner, Jawad Abdelmoula (MAR). As things stand today, Abdelmoula is ranked 28th in the Olympic Qualification rankings and is almost a lock to start at the Games next summer.

Similarly, World Cup medallist Diego Moya (CHI) has high chances of a start in Paris, as he stands in 41st place in the Olympic Qualification rankings right now.

After an outstanding 10th place at her WTCS debut in Montreal last summer, Maria Carolina Velasquez Soto (COL) is in line to be the third Team World Triathlon member to qualify for Paris. She currently stands 55th in the Olympic rankings and has a decent buffer over those still hunting qualification. Of the trio, Velasquez will be the only one to start her season in February as she tackles the Napier World Cup. 

Bermuda’s new rising star
For the rest of Team World Triathlon, the race to Paris will only intensify over the coming months. One athlete with a good chance of qualifying is Erica Hawley (BER). Hawley will be racing in Napier this month as she looks to build upon the maiden World Cup medal that she won in Yeongdo in 2023.

While Abdelmoula, Moya and Velasquez should be safe in the qualification race, Hawley will be looking over her shoulder. She is 65th in the Olympic Qualification rankings however the current projected cut-off is for the 66th-ranked athlete to make it. As such, only a slight drop could cost Hawley a spot at the Olympics.

Due to the near-certain qualification of reigning Olympic champion, Flora Duffy (BER), Hawley will also not be eligible for a New Flag slot. Rather, she will have to defend her Olympic ranking and the Americas New Flag will go elsewhere.

As a reminder, whereas the Olympic Qualification rankings dictate the allocation of the individual Olympic slots, the New Flags are awarded on the basis of the world rankings. For each of the five continental confederations, the athlete with the best world ranking from a country that has not already earned a slot to the Paris Olympics will receive the quota place.

In the case of the Americas, the athlete due to take the women’s New Flag is, at this stage, Romina Biagioli (ARG). Currently 65th in the world rankings, Biagioli also earned the Americas New Flag at the Tokyo Olympics. No Argentinian female triathlete is due to qualify for Paris ahead of her, although her compatriot and fellow Team World Triathlon member, Moira Miranda, is chasing from 114th in the world rankings.

Raquel Solis Guerrero (CRC) and Paula Vega (COL) are two further Team members that will hope to usurp Biagioli from 100th and 173rd, respectively, in the world rankings.
Meanwhile, Matthew Wright (BAR) is forecasted to claim the men’s Americas New Flag slot. The Team World Triathlon member and Americas Sprint distance champion sits 49th in the world rankings.

His fellow Team members, Ramón Armando Matute (ECU, 99th in the world) and Gabriel Terán Carvajal (ECU, 104th) will be chasing, as will Tyler Smith (BER, 117th) and Alvaro Campos Solano (CRC, 206th).

Oceania race
Several other members of the Team are due to lock in New Flag places. Manami Iijima (GUM) is the front-runner in the women’s Oceania race, and if she succeeds, it will be the first time that Oceania qualifies an athlete for the Olympics on the New Flag slots, and also the first triathlete from Oceania but not born in Australia or New Zealand to make it to the Olympics. Iijima will look to improve upon her world ranking of 157th as she launches her season at the Oceania Cup in Wanaka. No Oceania male triathlete is eligible to claim the New Flag.

Amber Schlebusch and Hannah Newman (both RSA) are fighting for the same African New Flag slot. So, too, is Vicky Van Der Merwe (RSA), the reigning African champion. Van Der Merwe is 82nd in the world rankings while Schlebusch and Newman are 87th and 139th, respectively. The projected African New Flag recipient, though, is actually Shanae Williams (RSA, 71st) who is not on the Team like her three compatriots.

Badr Siwane (MAR), the final African representative of Team World Triathlon to regularly race at the World Cup level, is ineligible for the African New Flag due to Abdelmoula’s anticipated qualification. He will therefore have to rely on qualifying through the Olympic rankings. While he is ranked 100th in that respect, a place in the top-80 is expected to be required.

Elsewhere, several African athletes are assisted through the African Scholarship system. While they are not yet regulars at World Cup events, the likes of Jean Gael Laurent L`entente, Eloi Adjavon, Seifeldeen Ismail and Seifeddine Selmi will be in the hunt for either the African New Flag slot or for a Universality place in Paris. Through Team World Triathlon, they will be supported on their respective journeys to the Games, while targeting Continental Cups and boosting their world rankings will form their main priorities.

Three Slovakian members of Team World Triathlon are gunning for the European women’s New Flag slot. Ivana Kuriackova leads the way, standing 57th in the world rankings. Her teammates Zuzana Michalickova (70th) and Romina Gajdošová (80th) will nonetheless pursue her. Of the trio, only Michalickova will tackle the upcoming Napier World Cup.

Moreover, Edda Hannesdottir (ISL) is on her way back from injury. Although she currently resides outside the top-300 in the world, she could easily make up the ground with a few big performances. Should Hannesdottir return to her 2022 form, she could very soon enter the conversation for Paris, whether through the European New Flag slot or the Universality mechanism.

Vitali Vorontsov (UKR, 109th), Panagiotis Bitados (GRE, 111th) and Henry Räppo (EST, 197th) will all try to close the points deficit to non-Team member Felix Duchampt (ROU, 69th) in the European men’s New Flag race. Notably, being 93rd in the Olympic rankings, Bitados may have a better chance of qualifying individually than through the New Flag system.

Finally, while the Asian male New Flag race is heating up between Jason Tai Long Ng (HKG, 45th) and Ayan Beisenbayev (KAZ, 53rd), a member of Team World Triathlon, Aleksandr Kurishov (UZB, 120th), stands an outside chance of securing the slot.

Ekaterina Shabalina is due to take the female Asian New Flag, although there is no representation among the Asian women on the Team.

Altogether, as many as twelve athletes from Team World Triathlon could yet qualify for the Paris Olympics. As the athletes get their seasons started, then, there will be plenty on the line.

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