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Three Stories To Watch For In San Diego

This weekend's ITU World Triathlon Series San Diego race holds to key to several athletes' Olympic dreams.

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Triathlon.org previews this weekend’s ITU World Triathlon Series San Diego race with three stories you should watch for. 

Triathlon Returns To San Diego

On September 25, 1974 the very first triathletes dove into San Diego’s Mission Bay to complete a 5.3-mile run, followed by a 5-mile bike and a 600-yard swim. Members of the San Diego Track and Field club organized it as an alternative to track work and 46 of them finished the race. This year, alongside thousands of age-groupers, 130 of the world’s best professional triathletes will compete in almost the same spot as the original ones 39 years ago. San Diego is one of the final races to earn qualifying points for this year’s London Olympics, showing just how far the sport has come in such a short time. The race venue is at Mission Beach, with Mission Bay on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. San Diego becomes the second U.S. city to host a round of the series after Washington, D.C. in 2009.

Olympic Qualifying

As the penultimate WTS event before the Olympic qualifying period closes, it’s a crucial race in terms of just which National Olympic Committees will secure places, and how many, in London. In the women’s field, the battle for eighth place (out of eight countries who can qualify the maximum three athletes) is between Switzerland and Germany. Daniela Ryf has a chance to put Switzerland ahead given Kathrin Muller is not on the start list. In the men’s race, it’s currently a three-way battle between Portugal (seventh), Australia (eighth) and Canada (ninth). While Canada’s Simon Whitfield is his country’s third athlete, all of the Canadians need to do well, as they are grouped closely together on the rankings points. Joao Pereira for Portugal and Courtney Atkinson from Australia are the third men from their respective countries, and therefore hold the key to claiming three spots.

Aside from that battle, it’s also an automatic qualifying race for the U.S. The top placed men’s finisher – regardless of place – will qualify for London. There is a chance for two men to qualify. If two finish within the top nine, then both will automatically be selected for London. If more than two finish in the top nine, it will be the first two. For the women’s, the first finisher within the top nine will qualify for London. That’s excluding Gwen Jorgensen and Sarah Groff, who have both already qualified.

Emergence Of New Olympic Medal Contenders
Sydney saw two new series winners in Steffen Justus (GER) and Erin Densham (AUS) and the first medalist from Africa in South Africa’s Richard Murray. With some of the top contenders taking precautions ahead of London, San Diego could be another perfect chance for first time series podium finishers. In the men’s race, Jonathan Brownlee, Brad Kahlefeldt, Joao Silva, Jarrod Shoemaker and Bevan Docherty have won series titles before, but perhaps it might be Sven Riederer’s time to top the podium. Reiderer has claimed four series medals so far, but not one gold. Or it might be William Clarke, Mario Mola, Kris Gemmell or Ivan Vasiliev.

In the women’s race, it will be tough to dislodge Helen Jenkins from the podium. She hasn’t finished lower than sixth in a series race since Madrid last year and claimed silver in Sydney last month. There are other series winners in Daniela Ryf, Emma Moffatt, Emma Snowsill and Densham who have the credentials on paper to contend as well. But those chasing that first win to upset the status quo are Emma Jackson, Sarah Groff, Gwen Jorgensen, Laura Bennett, Liz Blatchford and Kathy Tremblay, who have all had good form in the past six months.