The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women’s triathlon is here! Here are the top female athletes to look out for in Japan.

An extra year in this Olympic cycle has made all the difference in the women’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games triathlon with some new up-and-coming names supplanting previous favourites and big stars returning to the biggest stage.

The women’s triathlon takes place on Tuesday 27 July 2021 at 6:30 Tokyo time – here are the athletes who will be vying for Olympic glory.

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 women on the start list in Tokyo with a maximum of three athletes per nation, though most have two. As the sport’s three most powerful nations Australia, Great Britain and the USA have all qualified three athletes in the women’s race.

Here are the big names who’ll be aiming for the medals along with their race numbers in the event.

Maya Kingma – Netherlands – #1

Maya Kingma - Tommy Zaferes / World Triathlon
Photo: Tommy Zaferes / World Triathlon

Always a threat on the swim and bike, Kingma has really stepped up her run during the Covid year to make herself into a true contender. A breakaway specialist, Kingma scored third at WTCS in Yokohama in May then first at WTCS in Leeds in June. The confidence from those performances will be just as crucial as her physical ability, giving Kingma the belief she can come out on top in Tokyo.

Our Verdict: If a breakaway gains distance, the Dutchwoman is a real podium threat.

Katie Zaferes – USA – #14

Katie Zaferes - Tommy Zaferes / World Triathlon
Photo: Tommy Zaferes / World Triathlon

As 2019 World Triathlon Champion, Zaferes was everyone’s pick for Gold at Tokyo 2020. But despite being one of the most consistent performers in the world with six WTCS wins and 23 podiums in total, but a year on, even her participation wasn’t secure. The sudden loss of her father earlier this year has been a tragic barrier to racing at her best. Meanwhile, the male athletes from her training group with coach Joel Filliol failed to fire at their best, which doesn’t bode well for Zaferes’ preparations.

Our Verdict: Back to her best, a medal should be around her neck at the end of the day.

Nicola Spirig – Switzerland – #26

Nicola Spirig - Tommy Zaferes / World Triathlon
Photo: Tommy Zaferes / World Triathlon

Being the oldest athlete in the race at 39 won’t stop every other athlete in the race from being scared of Nicola Spirig. This will be her fifth Olympics and she’s medalled at the last two, taking Gold at London 2012 and Silver at Rio 2016. As in previous Olympic cycles, Spirig has sharpened up with middle-distance races – winning a pair of Challenge events in Gran Canaria and Walchsee – and a World Triathlon Cup in Lisbon. If the swim pace set by Learmonth and Kingma is as high as expected in the swim, Spirig could miss the front group – but as the sport’s strongest rider, she’s also the one who’s most likely to pull things back together. On the run, she’s just as fast and capable as he medal-winning form in the last two Games.

Our Verdict: A big-day performer through and through, Spirig comes home with another Olympic medal.

Flora Duffy – Bermuda – #29

Flora Duffy - Janos Schmidt / World Triathlon
Photo: Janos Schmidt / World Triathlon

After being sidelined by injury in 2018 and 2019, an extra year of preparation has returned Duffy to Gold-medal-favourite status. The 2016 and 2017 World Triathlon Champion and 2018 Commonwealth Champion has it all – a stellar swim, awesome bike power and technical skills and a killer run. Her race-best 10km split at WTCS Leeds underlined her strength in the final discipline, so whether she’s in a breakaway situation or not, she could take Gold.

Our Verdict: The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Champion.

Cassandre Beaugrand – France – #30

Cassandre Beaugrand - Janos Schmidt / World Triathlon
Photo: Janos Schmidt / World Triathlon

With a solid swim, good bike and great run, Beaugrand has been tipped for greatness for a couple of seasons. She’s continuing to improve over the Olympic distance – she had the third-fastest run split at WTCS Leeds – but if she races to her potential in Tokyo, the 24-year-old could come away with a medal.

Our Verdict: An outside bet for the podium.

Vicky Holland – Great Britain – #32

Vicky Holland - Delly Carr / World Triathlon
Photo: Delly Carr / World Triathlon

Olympic Bronze medallist from Rio and 2018 World Triathlon Champion, Holland is an athlete who thrives on performing on the big days. On a recent podcast with Greg Bennett, Holland described her Tokyo race as a free hit while there was no added pressure in 2020 or 2021 for the Brit, who qualified back in 2019. A great runner with a great mindset and nothing to lose Holland could get things done on the 10km to take another medal if things go her way.

Our Verdict: Another Olympic medal isn’t out of the question for the Brit.

Jess Learmonth – Great Britain – #33

Jessica Learmonth - Wagner Araujo / World Triathlon
Photo: Wagner Araujo / World Triathlon

Short-course racing’s pre-eminent swimmer, Learmonth is bound to set a ferocious pace in the first discipline and take a key selection of athletes with her such as Kingma, Duffy – and potentially Zaferes and Georgia Taylor-Brown, too. Combining that freestyle speed with extremely powerful biking and a solid run has created a viable breakaway tactic in WTCS races that’s led to nine podium finishes including second in Leeds in June. If the breakaway works again, she could see the race through to the podium.

Our Verdict: With the right breakaway, Learmonth could claim a medal.

Georgia Taylor-Brown – Great Britain – #34

Georgia Taylor-Brown - Tommy Zaferes / World Triathlon
Photo: Tommy Zaferes / World Triathlon

One of the sport’s best all-rounders, the 2020 World Triathlon Champion is certainly a favourite in Tokyo. She crossed the line alongside Learmonth at the Tokyo test event in 2019 and while that action led to the pair being DQ’d, she outperformed the best there – even if the run was cut to 5km due to the heat. If she can make Learmonth’s breakaway train she’s on track for a medal.

Our Verdict: A genuine Gold medal contender.

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