Mixed teams to make debut in triathlon at Tokyo Olympics


HIGHLIGHTS FROM RIO: Gwen Jorgensen gave the United States its first Olympic gold medal in the sport. It was an incredible performance from Jorgensen, who finished 38th at the 2012 London Olympics. Jorgensen stayed near the front in the swim and tied for first as part of the lead group, held her position throughout the bike leg and battled out the 10-kilometer run alongside 2012 gold medalist Nicola Spirig of Switzerland before sprinting away for gold. The British brothers Brownlee — Alistair and Jonathan — took gold and silver in the men’s race. Alistair defended the title he won at the London Games in 2012, when Jonathan took the bronze.

WHAT’S NEW: The course at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo Bay will host the first Olympic mixed triathlon. Like the men’s and women’s individual events, it will be an early-morning start to take into account expected high temperatures and oppressive humidity in Tokyo. The mixed race starts at 7:30 a.m. local time, an hour later than the two individual races. Two women and two men compete in the mixed. The men and women alternate during the race. Each swims 300 meters, cycles for eight kilometers and runs for two kilometers before tapping the hand of their teammate to extend the relay.

TOKYO EXPECTATIONS: Neither of the champions from Rio will be back to defend their titles, and the competition is wide open. As of the men’s rankings issued June 28, Spain’s Mario Mola, Luis Vincent of France and Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway are the leading trio. Blummenfelt won the first two World Triathlon Series events two months ago. Alex Yee of Britain and American Morgan Pearson had a one-two finish in a World Triathlon Series event in early June in Leeds, England. The Leeds race ended Alistair Brownlee’s chance of winning a third gold when he was disqualified from the race for unsportsmanlike behavior in the swim leg. American women lead the ITU rankings heading into Tokyo and 23-year-old Taylor Knibb is among the top-ranked trio.

ATHLETES TO WATCH: With Jorgensen not returning to defend her title, Americans will still be well-positioned to again win gold. Three American women have qualified for Tokyo — Knibb, Katie Zaferes and Summer Rappaport. Pearson and Kevin McDowell on the men’s side give the U.S. five triathletes in Tokyo. The American team has a combined 32 World Triathlon Championship Series medals, 30 from the World Triathlon Cup and 12 from World Triathlon mixed relays. Australia is the only country with the full complement of six triathletes which could give it the edge in the mixed event. Yee, Jonathan Brownlee, Vicky Holland, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Jess Learmonth are in a strong British squad.

GOLD MEDAL MOMENTS: July 26: men’s race; July 27: women’s: July 31: mixed.

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