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Although this year’s Omegawave ITU World Triathlon Series race in San Diego will not carry the same weight of importance as last year—the 2012 event had Olympic qualification consequences for several countries, including the U.S.—it will feature a few exciting story lines.
Brownlee vs. Gomez
Perhaps the most anticipated showdown of the San Diego weekend will be between 2012 Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee and silver medalist Javier Gomez. The duo has not faced off in a draft-legal race since that London competition. While Gomez has already shown tremendous early-season form at Escape From Alcatraz (a non-drafting event), the ITU Mooloolaba World Cup and the first ITU WTS race of the year in Auckland, Brownlee has yet to compete in 2013. Will it be Brownlee and Gomez taking the top two spots, or will we see a surprise victor on Saturday?
The Emergence of Anne Haug
Germany’s Anne Haug finished a quiet 11th at the 2012 London Olympics, but has become an ITU star in the months since August. She finished fourth at ITU WTS Stockholm, second at ITU WTS Yokohama and then closed out the season with the win at the 2012 WTS Grand Final in Auckland. She then opened up 2013 with a win at ITU World Cup Mooloolaba before returning to Auckland for the first 2013 race. After missing the front group to start the bike, she made the brave move of bridging the gap on her own. Upon reaching the front pack she stayed there, turned in a patient run and then outkicked the competition to earn another Auckland victory. It’s safe to say the other women will keep an eye on her positioning throughout the race on Friday. She will face tough competition from Olympic bronze medalist Erin Densham (AUS), Auckland podium finisher Felicity Abram (AUS), Andrew Hewitt (NZL), Barbara Rivers Diaz (CHI), Gwen Jorgensen (USA), Sarah Groff (USA) and more.
No American woman has ever won an ITU World Triathlon Series (formerly World Championship Series) event in its four-year history. Two athletes have emerged as the female leaders in American draft-legal triathlon, and each has a chance at taking the victory on Friday. Gwen Jorgensen burst onto the triathlon scene in 2011, finishing second at ITU WTS London and securing her Olympic spot. Sarah Groff, on the other hand, has been competing in ITU races for nearly 10 years and has seen success recently. She also earned her Olympic spot in 2011 in London and went on to finish fourth in the Olympics. Seeing the first American female take a WTS victory on U.S. soil would be a special occasion.
USA Triathlon Elite National Championships
The WTS race will also double as the official USA Triathlon Elite National Championships. The top-three Americans (male and female) will be awarded their share of an additional $10,000 prize purse.
Seven U.S. women will chase the elite national title Friday. Groff and Jorgensen are in search of their first elite crowns, while Beijing Olympian Julie Ertel enters the event as a two-time champion (2007, 2008). Anna Battiata, Brianna Blanchard, Kaitlin Donner and Katie Hursey also seek their first titles.
The men’s race features a trio of former USA Triathlon elite national champions in Matt Chrabot, Hunter Kemper and Jarrod Shoemaker. Kemper owns a U.S. men’s record seven elite national titles with his most recent victory coming in 2011. Shoemaker won the 2010 and 2012 titles, while Chrabot was victorious in 2009. Rounding out the U.S. men on the start list are John Dahlz, William Huffman, Joe Maloy and Tommy Zaferes.
The women’s elite race is set for 3:30 p.m. Pacific Friday, followed by the men at 4 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free for spectators at Mission Beach, and the races will be televised live on the Universal Sports Network and Universalsports.com.
Scheduled for an 8:25 a.m. start Saturday is the first Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) World Paratriathlon San Diego, which will feature more than 50 of the world’s top paratriathletes, including the likes of three-time world champion Melissa Stockwell, competing on a 750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run course.
Interest in paratriathlon is at an all-time high, and the sport continues to grow following a December 2010 announcement that it will debut at the Paralympic Summer Games in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
In addition to the elite and paratriathlon events, the race will welcome over 1,800 age-group athletes to the sprint- and Olympic-distance events. The age-group events will kick off on Saturday morning, with Olympic waves starting at 6:30 a.m. and sprint waves following at 8:45 a.m.
According to USA Triathlon, the athletes will represent 41 U.S. states (and Washington, D.C.) and 15 countries with an age range of 13 to 81 years old.