Three Olympic gold-medal winners have been included as part of Team England’s first team announcement for the home Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer.
Who will be racing for Team England in the Commonwealth triathlon team?
Alex Yee, Georgia Taylor-Brown, Jonny Brownlee and Sophie Coldwell will be representing Team England in triathlon on 29 July in the individual races.
Alex Yee, London – Olympic gold and silver medallist Alex, is aiming to win another medal at his first Commonwealth Games. He also won the World Triathlon Championship Series in Leeds in 2021.
Georgia Taylor-Brown, Manchester – 2021 was hugely successful for Georgia, winning gold in the mixed relay at Tokyo and silver in the individual race. In 2020, she won gold at the World Championships in Hamburg.
Jonny Brownlee, Leeds – Olympic gold mixed relay winner alongside Georgia and Alex, and two-time individual Olympic medallist, Jonny will be going for his second gold at the Commonwealth Games, after winning the mixed relay at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. He also took silver behind his older brother Alistair at the 2014 Commonwealths.
Sophie Coldwell, Nottingham – Represented Team England at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games. Last year, Sophie medalled at World Triathlon Championship Series races in Leeds and Abu Dhabi.
When will the Commonwealth triathlon events take place?
Triathlon will be the first medal event on the programme at Birmingham 2022, taking place at Sutton Park on 29 July and 31 July (mixed relay and PTV1).
Jonny Brownlee on racing the 2022 Commonwealth Games
Jonny Brownlee will hope to banish memories of the “worst race I’ve had on a big stage” after being selected alongside Yee, Taylor-Brown and Coldwell.
The three-time Olympic medallist was recalling his last Commonwealth Games experience in Gold Coast in 2018 where he finished seventh with older sibling Alistair three places further back.
“I was limping around with a sore hamstring,” he adds. “To be honest, I didn’t really enjoy the experience that much at all.”
Not that Brownlee hasn’t enjoyed success at the Commonwealth Games before. A silver in the individual race in Strathclyde Country Park in 2014 behind his brother was complemented by gold in the mixed team relay, and the competition will take priority again for 2022.
“It’s the main aim of the year, alongside trying to help qualify a relay spot for Paris 2024 and get points for Paris to try and get three [individual] spots this time around as well.”
What distance will athletes race at the Commonwealth Games triathlon?
The omens certainly look promising for Sutton Park where the sprint format of 750m swim, 20km bike leg and 5km run will be retained from Gold Coast, with a mixed relay competition also returning (with the women on anchor leg this time), and the visually-impaired paratriathlon completing the programme.
Alex Yee on racing the 2022 Commonwealth Games
On the men’s side, Yee, having won gold and silver in Tokyo, is likely to start as favourite. Arguably the fastest runner in the sport, his goal has been to make sure his swim and bike are assured enough to leave him in contention come T2.
“I’m the first to admit I’m not yet safely getting to the front of the race,” he says. Things can spread out – especially in sprint races. But I’ve got in more swim miles, and the important thing is being consistent.”
Yee would also rather see the third spot – to be announced in June – go to an up-and-coming athlete who can target a medal rather than being tasked with a swim-bike support role to help him out.
“I was lucky enough to have that opportunity in the past, whether it was a first World Series in 2019 or first Olympic Games,” he says. “I’d really like that place to go to somebody to give them an opportunity.”
Georgia Taylor-Brown on racing the 2022 Commonwealth Games
On the women’s side, Taylor-Brown is keen for the third slot to go to her close friend and fellow Olympic mixed relay gold medallist Jess Learmonth.
“I’d love Jess to get the third spot, of course,” she says. “I feel she deserves it and – I won’t lie – it works well for me too. She’s strong on the bike and there’s usually a split when Jess is in the race.
“But, either way, everyone on the English side is super strong. We’ve got Sian Rainsley, Vicky Holland, Kate Waugh… so many girls it could go to. It’s so close between them all, but I’d like Jess to get it.”
Is Flora Duffy racing the 2022 Commonwealth Games?
The biggest challenge for gold is likely to come from Flora Duffy. The reigning Olympic and Commonwealth champion has regularly been a thorn in the side of the Brits, and at 34 years of age, shows no signs of slowing down.
In the most recent race in the World Series in Abu Dhabi in November, the Bermudian beat Taylor-Brown, Coldwell and Learmonth into second, third and fourth places.
“It’s so difficult as she’ll probably always be there out of the swim and even if she’s not, she’s probably going to ride up to us,” Taylor-Brown explains. “In Abu Dhabi, I got back to her on the second lap of the run before blowing my doors a little bit. I don’t think it’s about tactics, but probably just fitness and getting faster.”
Duffy won’t be the only threat, however. Beth Potter has been selected by Scotland, and Non Stanford and Liv Mathias should add strength for the Welsh.
“I think it’ll be a British race!” Taylor-Brown adds. “I don’t want that to sound big-headed, but the British girls are so strong right now. I think there will be a lot of us up there at the head of the field. It’ll be like going on a British training camp!”
Sophie Coldwell on racing the 2022 Commonwealth Games
Taylor-Brown will be joined by Coldwell, whose podium finish in Abu Dhabi sealed her automatic berth. Coldwell was sixth in the Commonwealth Games in 2018, and has steadily improved since to be a firm medal contender.
As a reserve at the Tokyo Olympics she also has every incentive to make the opportunity count.
“It was a tough trip, made tougher by Covid and the restrictions it brought,” Coldwell says. “Going out and knowing your chances of racing are literally zero is a tough position to be in, but I tried to learn what I could and it was fuel for the fire seeing what the guys achieved.”
Based in Loughborough where she trains with 2014 Commonwealth champion Jodie Stimpson, Coldwell will also be on familiar turf.
“I’ve raced at Sutton Park so many times in road relays and I’m definitely going there to try and get myself on the podium. I think the fact it’s a home Games plays to our advantage.”
The final places for the England triathlon team will be announced in June, when the men’s and women’s visually impaired paratriathletes will also be revealed.
The VI class is in focus for 2022 after the wheelchair division was featured on Gold Coast. England’s paratriathlon athletes took centre stage in Australia, with Jade Jones-Hall and Joe Townsend both winning gold.
Read more from 220 columnist Tim Heming here.