Preview: triathlon at this year’s Commonwealths

We take a look at the key contenders at Glasgow 2014, starting with the Home Nations...

ITU World Championships 2009

Simon Whitfield, Hamish Carter, Emma Snowsill, Chris McCormack, Michellie Jones, Bevan Docherty, Leanda Cave, Peter Robertson, Simon Lessing… Triathlon’s history as part of the Commonwealth Games may be a brief one but the athletes who have graced the stage reads like a who’s who of 21st-century Olympic-distance triathlon.

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After an appearance as a demonstration event in the Auckland Games in 1990, triathlon officially made its long-awaited Commonwealth Games bow at Manchester in 2002. With Antipodean giants New Zealand and Australia, South Africa, Canada and the Home Nations eligible for participation, the scene was set for the traditional powerhouse nations of tri locking horns in a bid for glory.

The men’s race saw Canada’s Simon Whitfield – two years after taking tri’s inaugural Olympic title in Sydney – edging the Australian Miles Stewart on the line by 2secs. Hamish Carter was third, with multiple ITU World Champion and English hope Simon Lessing fourth. The women’s event saw Carol Montgomery make it a Canadian clean sweep of the gold medals, with Wales’ ITU World Champ-in-waiting Leanda Cave taking silver.

The 2006 Commonwealths took place in Melbourne, Australia, with southern hemisphere athletes scooping all six medals. Australia’s Brad Kahlefeldt took the men’s top spot ahead of two ITU World Champions, New Zealand’s Bevan Docherty and fellow Aussie Peter Robertson. In the form of her career, Aussie Emma Snowsill won women’s gold over Sam Warriner. Kiwi Andrea Hewitt was third.

Despite triathlon’s increased popularity, the event was dropped from the 2010 Games in Delhi after organisers were unable to find a suitable location for the swim. But, following the classic duo of triathlon races at the London Olympics in 2012, the sport returns to the schedule for the 20th edition of the Commonwealths in July.

Glasgow’s Strathclyde Country Park will host the individual events on 24 July with the mixed relay to follow on 26 July. Home nation hopes are riding high, but there’ll be plenty of competition with New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt, South Africa’s Richard Murray and the Aussie Emmas Moffatt and Jackson all providing stiff opposition.

Read on for a look at the key contenders….

England

Team England includes several medal favourites, namely Jodie Stimpson and the Brownlee brothers. Aaron Harris is having a breakthrough year on the WTS circuit, with two top-10 finishes to date, but is most likely to play domestique. With Helen Jenkins now out of Glasgow though, Stimpson looks firm favourite for the women’s crown.

Men: Alistair Brownlee, Jonny Brownlee, Aaron Harris
Women: Jodie Stimpson, Vicky Holland, Lucy Hall

Wales

The Welsh team’s journey to the Glasgow start line has been a rocky one: courting controversy with the omission of the multiply-titled Leanda Cave, followed by the announcement that the strong favourite for women’s tri gold, Non Stanford, had withdrawn due to ongoing injury. What’s more, Helen Jenkins just revealed that she has also been forced out by injury.

Men: Morgan Davies, Liam Lloyd, Alex Matchett
Women: Holly Lawrence, Carol Bridge

Scotland

The home team had a comparatively small pool of athletes to choose from, but have a men’s squad with proven ITU experience in David McNamee (although he’s been rehabbing an injury), Grant Sheldon and Marc Austin. The women’s squad, on the flip side, is untested at major championship level, so it’ll be interesting to see if any can shine on the biggest stage of their careers to date.

Men: David McNamee, Grant Sheldon, Marc Austin
Women: Natalie Milne, Seonaid Thompson

Northern Ireland

With established ITU racer Gavin Noble stepping away from racing, all medal hopes will be pinned on Derry’s ITU star Aileen Reid. Joining Reid on the start line is 70.3 supremo Eimear Mullan, who, like Wales’ Carol Bridge, is more at home over longer distances. The men’s team is relatively untested at WTS level, the best result coming from Conor Murphy in Auckland with a 22nd.

Men: Conor Murphy, Harry Speers, Russell White
Women: Eimear Mullan, Aileen Reid, Emma Sharkey

New Zealand

A strong, veteran women’s squad will lead the Kiwi’s charge for medals in Glasgow. Andrea Hewitt is a consistent big-stage performer, while the men’s team contains three young, talented athletes. They’ll definitely be after a medal in the relay too.

Men: Tom Davison, Tony Dodds, Ryan Sissons
Women: Andrea Hewitt, Kate McIlroy, Nicky Samuels

Canada

If one nation can be considered dark horses for a medal, it might well be the Canadians. In Brault and Sweetland, they have two very consistent female triathletes, while their men’s team certainly has previous form when it comes to springing surprise results – remember Simon Whitfield at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games?

Men: Matthew Sharp, Kyle Jones, Andrew Yorke
Women: Sarah-Anne Brault, Ellen Pennock, Kirsten Sweetland

Australia

Traditionally a hotbed of triathlon talent, Australia has been through a lean time at ITU level in the last few years. But with a crop of young, exciting and fast athletes making their mark on the ITU circuit this season, they’ll be right in the mix come July. With strength in depth, they’ll also be a strong presence in the Mixed Relay as well.

Men: Aaron Royle, Dan Wilson, Ryan Bailie
Women: Emma Moffat, Emma Jackson, Ashleigh Gentle

South Africa

The South Africa team possesses one of the strongest medal contenders in the shape of formidable runner Richard Murray. Fresh from beating the Brownlees in Hyde Park, he will be a big threat in the men’s race. With Olympic and plenty of ITU experience to their names, Gillian Sanders and Kate Roberts could also be in the mix for the ladies.

Men: Richard Murray, Henri Schoeman, Wian Sullwald
Women: Gillian Sanders, Mari Rabie, Carlyn Fischer

What, where, when?

When: The individual races will be held on 24 July, with the women’s race starting at 11am and the men’s at 3pm. The mixed relay event will be held from 12:30-2:30pm on 26 July.

Where: Strathclyde Park, Glasgow.

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(Images: Delly Carr, Janos Schmidt)