Triathlon Magazine Canada
Olympic and Paralympic Dreams
IT’S A BIT scary even writing this story – as we go to print, the Olympics are still scheduled to go ahead, despite regular polls that show that upwards of 80 per cent of the Japanese population are opposed to the country hosting the Olympics this summer.
While it’s hard to try and keep up as a journalist, it’s also hard to imagine what athletes have been going through as they try to qualify for the Games. The Olympic qualifying period re-opened in May, offering athletes just a few events to try and earn a spot on the start line in Tokyo.
Heading into the qualifying period, Triathlon Canada had rejigged its qualifying criteria, all but naming Tyler Mislawchuk and Joanna Brown to the team. Here’s a lowdown on how the rest of the qualifying picture has panned out.
Mixed Team Relay
Heading into the qualifying period, Canada hadn’t earned a qualifying spot for the Mixed Team Relay, which guarantees a country two men’s and two women’s spots. Seven teams had been assured spots, with the final three guaranteed spots to be decided at the World Triathlon Mixed Relay Qualification Event in Lisbon. Canada appeared to be in the running for one of the final three spots, but by the time race day came around, our top competitors had withdrawn from the relay.
Canada has qualified two men for Tokyo. With one of those spots pretty much assured to go to Mislawchuk, even though Matthew Sharpe’s ranking was what assured Canada that second spot, he hadn’t officially qualified for the team – he was competing with Alexis Lepage for the chance to go to Tokyo. The selection criteria is based in part, by individual results, not the Mixed Team Relay. That meant Sharpe and Lepage were set for a head-to-head race for an Olympic spot at the individual race in Lisbon, which took place the day after the relay. Sharpe made it clear long before that he would have to focus on the individual race. Then, during race week, Mislawchuk and Lepage also pulled out of the Mixed Team Relay.
After racing at the World Triathlon Championship Series Yokohama, Joanna Brown and Amelie Kretz both flew to Lisbon, intending to participate in the relay. Brown ended up having to pull out with health issues (see editorial), and once she realized that Canada wouldn’t be fielding a top team in the Mixed Team Relay, Amelie Kretz pulled out, too, in order to focus on the individual race.
Canada’s team included Emy Legault, Aiden Longcroft-Harris, Dominika Jamnicky and Martin Sobey, athletes who have competed on the world stage (Jamnicky represented Canada at the Commonwealth Games in 2018), but weren’t part of the Canadian team that finished fifth at the Mixed Relay World Championships in Hamburg in 2017 and 2019. In the end, the team was lapped out of the race.
That meant that unless Canada could qualify another woman in the individual event in Tokyo, it wouldn’t be able to participate in the relay.
With Canada missing the relay opportunity, the only way Kretz would be able to return to the Olympics would be if she could move herself high enough in the rankings to earn Canada a second individual spot, and then be picked by Triathlon Canada for the team.
After a stellar swim in Yokohama, Kretz found herself in the chase pack off the bike alongside Brown, and surged into fourth place in the first few kilometres. Brown put together a solid run despite a budding kidney infection and a broken nose, and would run her way to 13th. Kretz would struggle through the latter stages of the run to finish 33rd.
A week later, though, Kretz’s decision to pull out of the Mixed Relay in Lisbon turned out to be a good one as the Ste-Therese, Que., native finished sixth, moving her up to the 53rd spot in the Olympic ranking, enough to give Canada a second women’s spot in Tokyo and give Canada a chance to compete in the inaugural Mixed Team Relay at the Games. At the end of qualifying Kretz moved down one spot to 54th in the standings, maintaining Canada’s position.
Part of the criteria for our second men’s competitor at the Games in Tokyo is the athlete’s ability to act as a domestique for Tyler Mislawchuk. That strategy helped him take the Tokyo Test Event in 2019, and Triathlon Canada hopes that a similar plan will help at the Olympics this summer. At the World Triathlon Cup Lisbon race both Sharpe and Lepage were on hand to prove their ability to help Mislawchuk during the race. After a great swim, Lepage struggled early in the bike and was out of the race after just a few kilometres. Sharpe was then left to do the domestique duties through the ride, which became even more important when Mislawchuk flatted. Sharpe waited for his countryman, then tried to help him back to the pack. They were never able to get back in the mix, though. After exhausting himself with a huge effort on the bike, Sharpe pulled out during the run. Mislawchuk would finish the day in 47th.
After an impressive silver-medal performance at the Paralympics in Rio in 2016, Canada’s Stefan Daniel will be looking to try and move up a step on the podium in Tokyo in August in the men’s PTS5 category. While we haven’t had a chance to see Daniel compete in a triathlon event for almost two years, he’s been working hard, with Paralympic gold in his sights.
Other Canadians who could end up in Tokyo include Kamylle Frenette, currently sixth in the World Triathlon Paralympic PTS5 rankings; Jessica Tuomela, fourth in the PTVI standings; Leanne Taylor, 13th in the PTWC division and John Dunkerly 18th in the PTVI category.—KM