A year later than scheduled, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men’s triathlon is almost upon us. Here are the athletes to look out for in Japan.

It’s been a long road to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men’s triathlon, which takes place on Monday 26 July 2021 at 06:30 Tokyo time – but that’s all behind the athletes now as they prepare for the biggest short-course event of the year – and of many of the racer’s lives. While the crowds will be thin in Japan, the racing will be fast, furious and hotly contested.

Here’s the lowdown on the course and who to keep an eye on for the top positions and those all-important medals.

The Course

Based in Odaiba Park, a small island in the bay south of central Tokyo, between Koto City and Shinagawa City, the race is held over the traditional Olympic distance that first appeared in the Sydney 2000 Games – 1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km run.

The non-wetsuit swim in the bay’s warm waters will start with a dive from a pontoon just off Odaiba Beach. After the first 1000m lap, there will be an Australian exit, where athletes leap from the water and briefly run across the beach before diving back in for the second 500m lap.

T1 will be based in Seaside Park, where the athletes will mount their bikes for the eight-lap, 40km course. Each bike loop weaves its way through the park’s gardens and features plenty of corners and dead turns, which will slow the athletes down. The course is virtually flat with just one 8m rise each lap.

After arriving back at T2, it’s a completely flat 10km run made up of four 2.5km laps with the end of the final lap heading back to the edge of Tokyo Bay for the finishing straight.

The Contenders

There are 55 men on the start list with a maximum of three athletes per nation – though most only have two. Here are the star names who’ll be vying for the top spots along with their race numbers.

Hayden Wilde – New Zealand – #2

Hayden Wilde - World Triathlon
Photo: Ben Lumley / World Triathlon

Wilde has proven himself as one of the sports most aggressive young talents and used his time during lockdown in New Zealand to make his run an even bigger threat – running 13:29.47 for 5km in February. He was also third in 2019’s Olympic Test Event and just seems to grow in confidence with every race he does.

Our Verdict: If he’s with the lead pack on the run, he’s definitely in with a shot at a medal.

Vincent Luis – France – #7

Vincent Luis - Delly Carr / World Triathlon
Photo: Delly Carr / World Triathlon

The amiable Frenchman was the 2019 and 2020 World Triathlon Champion, proving his consistency and form over all three triathlon disciplines. With a winner’s mindset and the psychological advantage of having beaten all the other challengers at the race, he’s a big favourite. However, neither Luis nor any of his fellow athletes in coach Joel Filliol’s training squad have really performed at their best this year so we’ll find out on the day if Luis’s rise to form has been perfectly planned.

Our Verdict: At his best, Luis is coming away with Gold.

Jake Birtwhistle – Australia – #10

Jake Birtwhistle - World Triathlon
Photo: Janos Schmidt / World Triathlon

The only athlete on the WTCS circuit to take two wins in 2019, Birtwhistle was victorious in Leeds and Hamburg against top-quality fields. Another sensational runner, the Australian is no stranger to performing under pressure when it counts having taken Silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on home soil. Birtwhistle is another of coach Joel Filliol’s athletes and has yet to perform well in 2021 with a DNF in Yokohama and a sub-par 21st in Leeds. Despite that, he’s still a threat for a top finish in Toyko.

Our Verdict: Birtwhistle has the talent to cause an upset and get a medal.

Tyler Mislawchuk – Canada – #15

Tyler Mislawchuk - Delly Carr / World Triathlon
Photo: Delly Carr / World Triathlon

As strong an athlete as he is, Mislawchuk wouldn’t normally be considered as a true challenger to the other athletes on this list. However, the Canadian excels in hot and humid races – exemplified by his win at the Tokyo Test Event in 2019. That victory, where he beat Norway’s Casper Stornes and New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde will give Mislawchuk huge confidence about a big performance.

Our Verdict: A dark horse for an Olympic medal.

Javier Gomez – Spain – #21

Javier Gomez - World Triathlon
Photo: Wagner Araujo / World Triathlon

One of the most decorated athletes in the history of triathlon with nine world championship titles in everything from off-road to long course, Gomez was the Olympic Silver medallist in London but missed out on Rio due to a broken elbow. At 38, Gomez is the oldest athlete in the race, but with an astonishing World Triathlon Championship Series record of 40 podiums from 64 starts, no one will dare underestimate his abilities.

Our Verdict: Never count out a class performer like Gomez on the big days.

Mario Mola – Spain – #22

Mario Mola - World Triathlon
Photo: Janos Schmidt / World Triathlon

As one of the sport’s best runners and most consistent performers, Mola took back-to-back World Triathlon Championship titles in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The biggest factor in the Spaniard’s ability to challenge for a medal will come down to how he fares in the swim, his weakest discipline. If he comes off the bike with the leaders, he’s got the pedigree and tactical coolness to come out on top. Like Vincent Luis, Mola trains under Joel Filliol and we’ve seen little in the way of impressive results this year – so again, it appears this champ is all-in for one big day in Tokyo.

Our Verdict: Positioned perfectly at T2, a medal could be on the cards for Mola.

Kristian Blummenfelt – Norway – #43

Kristian Blummenfelt - World Triathlon
Photo: Janos Schmidt / World Triathlon

With polar-opposite preparation to Mola and Luis, Blummenfelt has raced as much as possible this year with amazing results – winning the WTCS race in Yokohama and following up with a World Triathlon Cup win in Lisbon. Like Mola, Blummenfelt may not make the front pack of swimmers but the savage pace he’ll set on the bike could well pull the whole race back together. Tough as they come and able to embrace the suffer to an incredible degree, Blummenfelt will strike fear into those running next to him.

Our Verdict: A real podium contender if he can out-tough the other great runners.

Henri Schoeman – South Africa – #51

Henri Schoeman - World Triathlon
Photo: Janos Schmidt / World Triathlon

Olympic Bronze medallist from Rio, Schoeman is also the 2018 Commonwealth Champion showing his ability to peak and perform for the biggest days. One of the sport’s best swimmers, Schoeman is also a great bike and runner making him a true all-rounder. He may lack the all-out 10km pace to challenge the fastest runners in the field but he went into the last Olympics in the same position and still came away with a medal.

Our Verdict: A big day performer, a top 10 for sure.

Morgan Pearson – USA – #53

Morgan Pearson - World Triathlon
Photo: Tommy Zaferes / World Triathlon

If the Olympics had happened last year as intended, Pearson wouldn’t have been a name on anyone’s lips. In 2021 however, the American has leapt into contention as one of the sport’s best runners. Coming from a track background with a 5km PB of 13:26.22, Pearson gained Olympic qualification with third at WTCS Yokohama in May then second at WTCS Leeds in June. Able to pace his run perfectly, don’t be surprised to see him lose time then come back strong to crush the dreams of others.

Our Verdict: With his current form and confidence, a medal isn’t out of the question.

Jonny Brownlee – Great Britain – #54

Jonny Brownlee - World Triathlon
Photo: Janos Schmidt / World Triathlon

The returning Olympic Silver medallist, Brownlee’s not had the results in recent years to ensure favourite status at this year’s Games. He’s not won a top-level Olympic-distance WTCS race since 2017 but he did beat some quality athletes to take the win at a World Triathlon Cup race in Arzechena this May. He’s already decided to move up to Ironman 70.3 after the Games and with two Olympic medals already, the pressure is off, which could free him to have a great performance.

Our Verdict: Never underestimate Brownlee to pull out a stellar performance.

Alex Yee – Great Britain – #55

Alex Yee - World Triathlon
Photo: Tommy Zaferes / World Triathlon

With a 10km track PB of 27:51, Yee has been one of the sport’s top runners for a few seasons, but has only recently pulled the swim, bike and run together to become a complete – and fearsome – triathlete. With a dominant win at WTCS Leeds in June, Yee suddenly became a favourite and if he carries that confidence and momentum into his first Olympic appearance, he’ll be tough to beat.

Our Verdict: If the others can’t drop him before the start of the run, Yee’s a genuine contender for Gold.

Full Start List

Start Num#First NameLast NameYOBCountry
21JavierGomez Noya1983ESP
27MartenVan Riel1992BEL
48MarcoVan Der Stel1991NED
49JorikVan Egdom1995NED
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