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Given that Canada’s Paula Findlay has been the only real consistent figure on the podium over the last season and a half, predicting the medalists for the women at the 2012 London Olympic triathlon is an extremely difficult task. Will the Emmas of Australia continue the good form they demonstrated in Hamburg and find their way back on top? Will an American woman follow in the footsteps of Susan Williams and pull out a medal? Or will an unknown face pull off an upset? Only time will tell. Despite the difficulties in predicting the 2012 medalists, we’ve given it our best shot.
Svenja Bazlen, Germany
Svenja Bazlen is something of a wildcard in terms of the podium contenders. She recently broke through with some solid results—three top-10 performances in a row in this year’s Dextro Energy World Championship Series—but she was only just an age-grouper back in 2007. However, given that the Germans are known for being able to prepare their athletes for races that matter (Jan Frodeno, anyone?), Bazlen shouldn’t be counted out for London.
Laura Bennett, United States
Laura Bennett is known to many as the hardest working triathlete in the sport, and it’s a safe bet to say that she’d like to top off her stellar career with a medal in London—something she missed by one spot in Beijing, where she came in fourth. A phenomenal swimmer and runner, Bennett has placed in the top 10 in every World Championship Series race she has entered so far this year, and she finished 2010 ranked 10th. This year, she currently sits in fifth. Come 2012, it’s a safe bet that number could be first, second or third.
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Emmie Charayron, France
Emmie Charayron won the junior world title in 2009 and then jumped right in with the big girls in 2010, when she promptly came in second at the Madrid portion of the World Championship Series. She fared well again in Madrid this year, placing third, and then won the European crown in June in Pontevedra, Spain. Charayron is still young and somewhat inconsistent, but she’s proven that she could be a threat in London.
Barbara Riveros Diaz, Chile
No one knew who Barbara Riveros Diaz was when she won the first race of the ITU’s Dextro Energy World Championship Series in 2010 with a blistering kick. The tiny Chilean backed up the win by placing second in Seoul and sixth in Madrid, but she faded in the later half of last year. Riveros has proven to be more consistent so far this year, with a win at the Ishigaki ITU Triathlon World Cup, a silver in Sydney, and fifth, fifth and fifth in Madrid, Kitzbühel and Hamburg, proving that she is certainly a podium threat for 2012.
Paula Findlay, Canada
Paula Findlay has been virtually unstoppable since she was the surprise winner of the 2010 Dextro Energy World Championship Series race in London, which she followed by winning Kitzbühel, Austria, finishing fifth at the 2010 Grand Final in Budapest with the second-fastest run of the day, and then winning every single World Championship Series race she has entered so far in 2011. A phenomenal runner, the course in London will suit Findlay well. As of right now, she is many pundits’ pick for gold.
Sarah Groff, United States
Sarah Groff became the first American woman in history to get on the podium of a Dextro Energy World Championship Series race when she came in third in Kitzbühel, Austria, in June. Groff had a disappointing year last year as she struggled with injuries, but if you look at the rest of her history on the ITU circuit, she’s been an extremely consistent racer for quite a while now. She trains with other podium contenders—Lisa Norden of Sweden, Barbara Riveros Diaz of Chile—in a group headed by Darren Smith, and she is likely to keep getting faster.
Sarah Haskins, United States
Sarah Haskins is one of the sport’s best swim-bikers and a perennial podium finisher in the American non-draft circuits. She won the first ITU World Cup of her career this year in Monterrey, Mexico, and she has finally recovered from a nerve injury she suffered back in 2007 when she sprained her ankle during a race. The silver medalist at the 2008 ITU world championships and fourth at the 2009 Grand Final, Haskins should never be counted out for London.
Andrea Hewitt, New Zealand
Hewitt has been incredibly consistent ever since she placed eighth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with numerous podium and top-10 finishes at World Championship Series and World Cup races. Going into the Grand Final in Budapest last year, Hewitt was in contention for the overall world title, but a terrible swim put her out of the running. She was third overall in World Championship Series rankings in 2009 and could pull off a podium in London.
Helen Jenkins, Great Britain
The 2008 short-course world champion, Jenkins will have plenty of motivation to perform well in front of her home crowd come 2012. She’s a true triathlete, meaning she can swim, bike and run with the best of them. In fact, she won her 2008 world title by breaking away with Sarah Haskins of the United States on the bike and then outkicking her to the finish. And she has plenty of experience getting on the podium in big races, placing third at the 2009 ITU Grand Final and third at Hy-Vee in 2008, among others.
Emma Moffatt, Australia
The bronze medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Emma Moffatt lived somewhat in the shadow of fellow Aussie and Beijing gold medalist Emma Snowsill until she tore up the ITU’s Dextro Energy World Championship Series in 2009 by winning four of the five races she entered, including the Grand Final. That earned her her first overall World Championship Series title, and she backed it up by winning it again last year. Moffatt has struggled a bit so far this season, but she had a breakthrough race in Hamburg, where she won by pulling away from Snowsill and Australia’s Emma Jackson near the end of the run. She is certainly a podium threat for London.
Lisa Norden, Sweden
Lisa Norden, the 2010 sprint world champion, has been out of commission with an injury since she placed 12th at the Dextro Energy World Championship Series race in Madrid this year. That being said, she’s been on the podium at a World Championship Series race seven times since 2009, including two wins and second at the 2009 Grand Final. She was also the bronze medalist at the 2010 European championships. Assuming that Norden heals up OK, she will definitely be a threat come 2012.
Daniela Ryf, Switzerland
Daniela Ryf has had numerous top-10 and podium finishes on the World Championship Series and World Cup circuits ever since she was the Under-23 world champion in 2008 and seventh in Beijing. She has struggled recently, though, in large part due to a stomach virus she picked up in 2010 in Seoul, where she won the first World Championship Series race of her career, according to her blog. But it looks like she should be on the road to recovery, which could mean she will be a real podium threat in London.
Emma Snowsill, Australia
You could argue that Emma Snowsill is inconsistent—if you look at the past 2 and a half seasons since she won gold in Beijing, you’ll see a veritable roller coaster of results. But if you trim away the fat—the races that don’t really matter—and look at the ones that do, it becomes clear that Snowsill is quite possibly the best big day racer in triathlon history. She surprisingly won Hy-Vee last year—and it’s $200,000 prize pot—along with the ITU’s Grand Final in Budapest. Her other results? Sixth, 25th and a pair of DNFs. Given her modus operandi, you can bet Snowsill will be ready to roll in London.
Nicola Spirig, Switzerland
Nicola Spirig, a teamTBB member, is another athlete who has been quiet as of late—she has struggled with stress fractures, according to the ITU—but her 12th place finish in Hamburg in July and her surprisingly fast swim there indicate that she may have spent her time away from running by working on her biggest weakness, the swim. That’s bad news for women hoping to podium at the Olympics, because Spirig knows how to win. She’s a multiple world cup winner, a two-time World Championship Series winner and a two-time European champion.
Ai Ueda, Japan
Ai Ueda has made a name for herself this year with two top-10 finishes in the World Championship Series and a silver at the Monterrey ITU Triathlon World Cup. Ueda often makes up for her poor swims by running her way through the field, passing athletes like they’re standing still. That London is a runner’s course plays into Ueda’s favor, and if she can improve her swim in the next year, who knows what could be in store for the tiny Japanese speedster.
One of the coolest things about the Olympics is that anything can happen on a day that only comes around once every four years. To get on the podium, you have to be able to cope with the fact that the last four years—and for some athletes, virtually their entire lives—have boiled down to the next two hours. That’s a lot of pressure, which is why it’s possible that no athlete on this list will win a medal, and instead athletes such as Rachel Klamer of the Netherlands, a bevy of Australians including Felicity Abram, Emma Jackson and Erin Densham, Kirsten Sweetland of Canada, Ainhoa Murua of Spain or some unknown woman could find herself with gold, silver or bronze in 2012.