Olympic dreams on the line at the World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds 

Jonny Brownlee of Great Britain in action during the Leeds World Triathlon event on June 09, 2019 in Leeds, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
Jonny Brownlee of Great Britain in action during the Leeds World Triathlon event on June 09, 2019 in Leeds, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

Results and placings could have significant ramifications for some athletes looking for a maiden Olympic berth and others chasing a piece of history. 

This weekend’s World Triathlon Championship Series Leeds could mean the end of some Olympic ambitions and at the same time raise hopes, as the end of the qualifying window on 14 June looms large.

Jonny Brownlee should be going into the weekend with a spring in his step bolstered by his win in Italy on Sunday coupled with the hometown advantage he will enjoy in Leeds.

Brownlee gave his hopes of reaching peak form ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games a boost after winning the Arzchena World Cup on Sunday.

The Briton hit his stride in Italy after finishing 23rd at the World Triathlon Championship Series opener in Yokohama, Japan, in mid-May, ending Kristian Blummenfelt’s impressive run from the last few weeks. Norway’s Blummenfelt made an impressive start to the international season, claiming first place in Yokohama before adding the Lisbon World Cup title the following week.

Three-time world champion Mario Mola of Spain also found his rhythm over the weekend where he finished in third place, hitting his straps with less than two months to go to the start of the Games.

A top-class field will assemble in Leeds to challenge these three athletes for podium places, including defending world champion Vincent Luis of France, who finished sixth in Yokohama. Luis was unrivalled in 2020, winning four consecutive races.

Belgium’s Jelle Geens will also be among the contenders after finishing second behind Blummenfelt in Yokohama.

The closing window

Much attention will be on the race for quota places and Sunday’s elite race will effectively be a battle to secure a third place for the British team and a possible foot in the door and a shot at another title for double Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee.

Great Britain currently has two quotas for the Games, with Jonny already guaranteed a ticket to Tokyo while former training partner Alex Yee has one hand on earning a place as the second-best ranked Briton. Yee finished fourth in Yokohama and would like nothing more to state his case for selection with a podium place in Leeds.

Tom Bishop, the next best-ranked British triathlete, holds the key to a third quota and needs to finish among the top 30 at the end of the qualifying window.

Permutations permitting, and with his fate in the hands of the British selectors, Alistair may yet make it to his fourth Olympics for a chance at a third consecutive gold medal.

The battle within a battle

The women’s elite race promises an equal measure of drama and intrigue as the race for the line is not only one for medals but team selections within individual nations.

Former world champion Katie Zaferes will line up on the pontoon with compatriot Taylor Spivey to battle it out for one remaining Olympic spot in the US team. Zaferes finished in 22nd place in Yokohama while Spivey narrowly missed on a podium place finishing fourth.

Two-time world champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda will make her season’s debut in Leeds to gain some confidence ahead of her fourth Olympic appearance.

Racing on home soil, Jess Learmonth is the only Tokyo-bound Briton among the local triathletes lining up in Leeds. She will, however, be joined by Non Stanford, Beth Potter and Sophie Coldwell.

Dutch athlete Maya Kingma will be wearing the number one in the race following her stellar performance in Yokohama. Kingma earned her first podium place at a World Triathlon Championship Series race finishing third behind a US 1-2.

She will be joined by compatriot Rachel Klamer, who should be in the running for top honours along with Belgium’s Claire Michel and France’s Cassandre Beaugrand.