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All on the line in San Diego

9 May 2012

With Olympic places on the line, Australia’s elite triathletes will be going for broke when they line up in the second round of the ITU World Championship Series at the birthplace of the sport, Mission Beach, San Diego this weekend.

There will be plenty at stake in both the women’s race featuring the already nominated Emma Moffatt and the next three major contenders Emma Snowsill, Erin Densham and Emma Jackson (Race starting 7am Saturday, AEST) and for the men with already nominated Brad Kahlefeldt and contenders Brendan Sexton, Courtney Atkinson and Chris McCormack (starting 7.30am Sunday, AEST). Read Brendan Sexton's race preview here >>>

Two spots for the 2012 London Olympic team remain open for both the women and the men, with Triathlon Australia expected to nominate its Olympic team to the Australian Olympic Committee on May 31, after the third round of the ITU World Series in Madrid (May 26,27).

For the men the pressure will not only be on to press for their own selection claims but also Australia’s neck-and-neck battle with Canada and Portugal to secure a third position open to the leading eight countries (based on the ITU points standing of their third athlete).

It could well come down to a race in two between two of the sport’s most celebrated athletes in Canada’s 2000 Olympic champion Simon Whitfield and Australia’s 2008 Beijing Olympian Courtney Atkinson.

Australia is currently sitting in eighth and Canada in ninth, which means right now Canada can only send two men and where each man ends up this weekend could determine which country sends three athletes to London.

Here is a look at both races in San Diego, which will be crucial for Olympic selection and points standings for many countries.

WOMEN’S PREVIEW
Beijing Olympian Erin Densham goes into this race as the form Australian athlete after her last start win in the opening ITU Sydney World Championship race and her previous win in the gruelling ITU World Cup in Mooloolaba. Densham has been in a triathlon hub that is Scottsdale, Arizona preparing for San Diego and will again take her relaxed personality from the desert to the beach for this make-or-break race. Reigning Olympic champion Emma Snowsill and 2011 ITU World Championship fourth placegetter Emma Jackson, have both prepared at home, Snowsill on the Gold Coast and Jackson with her QAS squad in Brisbane. Snowsill (14th in Sydney) is certain to be better for her first outing and Jackson will be out to ensure her 33rd in Sydney will be a distant memory come Saturday. Emma Moffatt, with her London bags packed, has also done her thing under coach Craig Walton on the Gold Coast and she will be looking to improve on her 13th in Sydney, with her sights set on the London podium in August. Also keep an eye on the vastly improved Ashleigh Gentle – a Moffatt training partner who was 10th in Sydney and Felicity Abram, who withdrew from Sydney with an injured hip.

Erin Densham says: “There is no doubt that in this race, the swim leg will be massive. It’s also a selection race for the US and they have some very good swimmers…it wouldn’t surprise me to see a few of them up the road after the swim. After Sydney I had a good break; I figured my body deserved it and all I did was swim two kilometres a day…but now I’m feeling great and ready to race again.”

Ones to beat: Reigning world champion, the talented Brit Helen Jenkins (GBR) will again be the one to beat while the US connection Sarah Groff, Gwen Jorgensen, Laura Bennett and Sarah Haskins will lead the home town heroes. Groff and Jorgensen already have their Olympic passports stamped so it will be up to Bennett (wife of 2008 Australian Olympian Greg Bennett) and Haskins to snare that final US spot with a top nine finish.

MEN’S PREVIEW
Brendan Sexton has again added Scottsdale, Arizona to his training schedule and has enjoyed the company of his VIS team mates Densham and Peter Kerr in the lead up to the San Diego race. Sexton has been in the US for the past two weeks at what he describes as a “low key training camp and away from the hustle and bustle” while Brad Kahlefeldt has put together some impressive training on the Gold Coast after his DNF in Sydney, determined to race back into Olympic form as has Atkinson who decided against starting in Sydney to set himself for San Diego. The “old fox” Chris McCormack has been living the life in LA training and racing, where he won the Olympic Distance Champions of Wildfire at Lake San Antonio, which attracted 4500 starters last weekend. Kerr and Oceania Champion Aaron Royle will round out the Aussie men who will all be out to salvage some pride and prove there is still plenty of fight in their legs.

Brendan Sexton says: “We came to Scottsdale, Arizona twice last year and we are back for two reasons. Firstly, the training locations here are perfect (if you don't mind the heat). There are hills, flats, trails, pools and plenty of room to move out among the cactus and secondly you can be assured that nine days out of ten the weather is absolutely predictable - long, hot and sunny. As always my expectations are just beyond what I've done in the past. I'll be aiming to finish better than I have at this level before…..so that’s a podium finish.” 

Ones to beat: With world champion and Olympic favourite Alistair Brownlee still in the wings recovering from his Achilles problems it will be little brother Jonathan who will make his season debut and fly the Union Jack while the NZ Olympic team of Kris Gemmell, Bevan Docherty and Ryan Sissons are certain to keep everyone honest.

Final Word - Australian Head Coach Shaun Stephens: 

“I’m expecting the races to be fast and tactical. With Olympic qualification up for grabs, Olympic selection for a number of countries and other athletes in full preparation for London, there will be a lot of races within races.

“I'm expecting the Aussie men to perform to the level they have been demonstrating in training. All of our senior men are capable of delivering a top performance on the weekend, based on what we have seen in training, and they need to step up and deliver.

“I'm expecting the women's race to be a very fast swim and our girls need to be aggressive and prepared to fight their way through to the front of the swim pack. If they are well positioned out of the water, all six of our girls are amongst the best runners in the triathlon world and are capable of a podium.”

Triathlon Australia

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