First four triathletes named for Tokyo

Holland, Learmonth, Taylor-Brown make for formidable women's team, but there's a wait to find out who'll join Jonny Brownlee on the men's roster

Taylor-Brown crosses the line to take her first WTS win

The British Olympic Association has named the first four triathletes to represent Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics – as it promises to send its strongest all-round team to date.

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World champion Georgia-Taylor-Brown, Jessica Learmonth and Rio Olympic bronze medallist Vicky Holland make up the women’s trio, with Jonny Brownlee – London 2012 bronze and Rio 2016 silver medallist – handed a confirmed spot for the men.

But there is no place yet for Jonny’s older brother and reigning Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee, nor for the improving Alex Yee, who finished fifth in this year’s hastily-arranged world title showdown in Hamburg.

This is because GB has yet to qualify all three men’s spots, although it hopes to rectify that when the qualifying points – that were frozen since the coronavirus pandemic – are resumed.

The sport’s governing body World Triathlon is yet to confirm when that will be, but scheduled races in Chengdu, Osaka and Yokohama next May are likely to prove decisive. British Triathlon may also confirm its final male pick or picks at that time.

Due to the quirks of the qualifying system, securing the final men’s spot is likely to depend on both Yee and Tom Bishop making the top 30 in the rankings. Both are currently on the cusp.

While Alistair Brownlee can be awarded the spot, there is little he can do to earn it having missed so much ITU World Series racing in 2019 and before.

The formation of the two-woman, two-man mixed relay – making its Olympic debut in Tokyo – will be decided from the individual athletes in attendance.

There is not yet confirmation how an athlete suffering injury, illness or even a Covid positive test before the mixed relay that takes place four days after the individual competitions conclude may be replaced.

The omens look strong. Having failed to make the podium in triathlon’s first three Olympic outings, Britain has topped the tri medal table in the past two Games.

The Brownlees’ first and third in London in front of a heaving Hyde Park crowd was bettered four years later by a one-two on the Copacabana sea front in Brazil.

It was also in Rio that Holland claimed GB’s first women’s tri medal, out-sprinting team-mate Non Stanford to take bronze. Holland would go on to become world champion two years later.

If all triathletes retain form and fitness and Britain qualify the third men’s berth, it could be argued this is the strongest British triathlon team that has ever been sent to a Games – with all six triathletes in contention for medals.

Learmonth and Taylor-Brown finished second and third behind USA’s Katie Zafares in the 2019 World Triathlon Series and took the tape hand-in-hand at last year’s Olympic test event. In September, Taylor-Brown won in Hamburg over the sprint distance to be crowned world champion. If Holland can make it to T2 in contention, she remains a threat on the run.

On the men’s side, although the competition has intensified and the course and conditions aren’t in their  favour, the Brownlees have long since demonstrated their medal-winning potential – and Alistair’s injury-free run and form this autumn suggests  he is returning to something approaching his best.

The improving Yee, having posted the fastest run split over 5km in Hamburg and possessing a 10km personal best to rival anyone in the field, must have a medal chance. And although an outsider, Tom Bishop, has proven consistency on the World Series and a runner-up spot to his name in Abu Dhabi.
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*Can the Brownlees and Yee race in harmony to bring Olympic success? Read Tim Heming’s column in this month’s 220Triathlon to find out why Britain’s greatest team may also be its undoing.