5 Olympic triathlon contenders hoping to beat the Brownlees

Brit brothers Ali and Jonny Brownlee are clear challengers for Rio Olympic medals, but who else will be targeting a podium place? Tim Heming picks his top five international men…

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Fernando Alarza

Age 25

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Lives Talavera de la Reina, Spain

Alarza races without the weight of expectation of his more decorated Spanish teammate Mario Mola but looks increasingly confident in the company of Mola, and Javier Gomez, who sadly is unable to take part at the Games due to a broken arm, denying Spain a team with three genuine medal hopes. company. A glance at Alarza’s improving results reveals his podium potential. A solid all-rounder on the WTS circuit, he lost out to Alistair Brownlee in last year’s sprint-distance race in London, pipped a fading Jonny Brownlee to take a runner-up spot on the Gold Coast, then out-kicked him in style for a maiden WTS victory in Cape Town. Alarza is running into form – and running fast.

2016 SEASON TO DATE

1st, Cape Town WTS

2nd, Gold Coast WTS

4th, Abu Dhabi WTS

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

2nd, London WTS, 2015

2nd, World U23 Champs, 2013

2010 ITU World Junior Champion

Vincent Luis

Age 27

Lives Vesoul, France

After David Hauss and the late Laurent Vidal ran to courageous fourth and fifth places respectively in the London Games, a new breed of French triathlete has emerged. Luis was 11th in Hyde Park but at 27 is now the leading contender. Fresh-faced but powerfully built, fast through the water, strong on the bike with a fearsome finishing kick, he proved he’s suited to the challenging Rio course by finishing runner-up to Gomez in last year’s Test Event. It was part of Luis’ best season to date where he secured four WTS podiums including a win over the sprint distance in Hamburg and a solid fifth place in the Grand Final in Chicago.

2016 SEASON TO DATE

A minor injury has kept him out of much of the 2016 season so far but at the end of June won Châteauroux ETU Sprint Triathlon European Championships  

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

2nd, Olympic Test Event, Rio, 2015

1st, Hamburg WTS, 2015

2008 ITU World Junior Champion

Richard Murray

Age 27

Lives Le Cap, South Africa

A comrade of Mario Mola in the Joel Filliol camp, Murray’s strengths and weaknesses match those of his illustrious training partner. A non-wetsuit swim will not help the South African on his weakest discipline, and neither will the lack of specific training after a broken collarbone sustained in a bike crash on the Gold Coast. Murray took bronze in the 2014 Commonwealths behind the Brownlees and as long as he can bridge to within striking distance on the bike, expect him to again lead the chase over the final 10km. It worked in the Test Event, where he posted the fastest split (30:30mins) to finish third.

2016 SEASON TO DATE

DNF, Gold Coast WTS

1st, New Plymouth ITU World Cup

2nd, Abu Dhabi WTS

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

1st, Edmonton WTS, 2015

2014 Commonwealth bronze medallist

1st, Hamburg WTS, 2012

Crisanto Grajales

Age 29

Lives Veracruz, Mexico

An outside medal hope but the course and conditions should suit the diminutive Mexican, who will be hoping the heat and humidity soar. Grajales recorded his first World Cup win on the continent in 2012 in Colombia and despite dropping out of last year’s Test Event on the run, stamped his ticket for the Games with Pan American success in Toronto. Approaching 30 but still improving, he caught the eye in taking fourth place, and the scalps of Luis, Alarza and Jonny Brownlee, in last season’s Grand Final, and is currently enjoying his finest season to date in the World Triathlon Series.

2016 SEASON TO DATE

2nd, Yokohama WTS

13th, Gold Coast WTS

5th, Abu Dhabi WTS

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

4th, Chicago WTS Grand Final, 2015

2015 Pan American Games Champion

1st, Guatape ITU World Cup, 2012

Mario Mola

Age 26

Lives Mallorca, Spain

Mola has emerged from the shadow of great friend and mentor Gomez, and with four WTS wins this season no triathlete has shown better form than the Mallorcan. The 26-year-old will be working hard on his swim as he hopes to minimise the deficit out of the water before tucking into a large pack that can rein in any Brownlee-led breakaway. In contention, Mola can unleash the run speed that saw him clock 28:59mins over 10km in 2015’s Grand Final. But as was proved in last year’s Rio Test event, where he eventually ran through for seventh, being with the leaders on leaving T2 is no given.

 2016 SEASON TO DATE

1st WTS Hamburg

1st, Yokohama WTS

1st, Gold Coast WTS 

1st, Abu Dhabi WTS

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS

1st, Chicago WTS Grand Final, 2015

1st, London WTS, 2014

2009 ITU World Junior Champion

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