While Vincent Luis, Mario Mola, Alex Yee, had most of the pre-race buzz as top runners, Norwegian Kristian Blummenfelt posted an ominous warning back at the WTS Yokohama a month ago. There he harnessed his powerful fullback frame to a dominating race-best 29:26 run – the fastest run in 2021 - to win the Tokyo preview by 10 seconds.
With 800 meters to go, all the top threats like Mario Mola, Jonny Brownlee, Vincent Luis, Tyler Mislawchuk, and Marten Van Riel were blown off the back. All who were left was a trio comprised of Great Britain’s 10,000 meter phenom Alex Yee, New Zealand’s rising young star Hayden Wilde, and powerful Blummenfelt. In a scenario like Ten Little Indians, one by one, Yee surrendered the lead to Blummenfelt. Then Wilde bowed to Yee. Then Blummenfelt started to stretch the string that held all of them together. First 20 meters. Then 50 meters, then 80 meters. Then 120. And as he rounded the last corner, Blummenfelt arrived quite alone on the heavenly blue carpet. Blummenfelt capped off his triumph with a race-best 29:34 closing run to finish in 1:45:04 with an 11-seconds lead on Yee (29:44 run) and 20 seconds on Wilde (29:52 run).
No other competitor ran under 30 minutes.
Blummenfelt erupted with the roar of a lion as he gripped the finish line banner as if to rip it apart. Then, emptied of every ounce of energy, he fell to the carpet and vomited. In a short while, Blummenfelt was rolled away in a wheelchair.
“It is a moment that I have been dreaming about for so many years,” Blummenfelt told World Triathlon media. “To be able to put it together on the day is something I am really proud of. It is a strange feeling coming into the last 100 meters and knowing that I had victory. It was quite a similar tactic as in Yokohama eight-weeks ago and also in Lisbon. I don’t really have the leg speed if we came down to the blue-carpet with Alex and Hayden so I knew I had to try and go really hard for five minutes all out and hopefully that would be enough to break them. It was such a good feeling when I got a little gap and I just had to make sure it was big enough, even for the last few hundred meters.”
Illustrating how much Blummenfelt gave to the day, he started in 26th place , 25 seconds behind swim leader Vincent Luis. Noted for his cycling prowess, Blummenfelt blitzed his way up to 8th place at T2 (23 seconds behind bike leader Andreas Salvisberg of Switzerland and Blummenfelt's fellow Norwegian Casper Stornes.
Yee and Wilde looked better off than the Norwegian as they crossed the line calmly for silver and bronze.
“I just wanted to run the best 10km I could,” Yee told World Triathlon media post-race. “Leaving the bike, I didn’t feel amazing honestly, I kind of had my poker face on. I knew my strength lied in my leg speed, and I just tried to pick that up where I could and played to my strengths. So I was really pleased to come away with second, honestly. Kristian was the better man on the day and I am really pleased.”
“Coming into the third lap there was still probably eight of us so there were some absolute animals in that group and it could have been anyone’s game,” said Hayden Wilde. “After a few attacks, it was left to the last three of us. We all looked at each other and we had our poker faces on behind our glasses and I actually remembered when I raced Alex, a couple of months ago in WTCS Leeds, he was really aggressive around the corners, so I thought I am not letting him go round those corners as fast as last time.”
Wilde commented on previous duels with Blummenfelt: “With Kristian, I remembered watching him race when I was in New Zealand in lockdown, doing that exact move in Yokohama and I was waiting and then thinking ‘there it is’. The man definitely deserves that gold medal, he was storming it on the bike as well. Didn’t hide, just did everything on the front and kudos to him.”
As a tribute to the Norwegian’s late push for glory, Yee and Wilde had a comfortable margin over Belgium’s Marten Van Riel (1:45:25), Great Britain’s Jonny Brownlee (1:45:33), and a surprisingly strong 6th place by Kevin McDowell (1:45:54), which broke the previous U.S. Men’s Olympic record of a 7th place finish held by Hunter Kemper at Beijing in 2008.
Norway had the best national performance - Blummenfelt 1st, Gustav Iden 8th, Casper Stornes 11th.
Blummenfelt's 1:45:04 winning time was second best - 3 seconds slower than Alistair Brownlee's 1:45:01 at Rio in 2016. Blummenfelt's 29:34 run split was second best ever - 27 seconds slower than Alistair Brownlee's 29:07 at London in 2012.
Blummenfelt's 11 seconds margin of victory was tied for 2nd largest with Alistair Brownlee's 11 seconds in 2012 at London. Simon Whitfield's 13 seconds margin of victory at Sydney remains the largest.
The race started with a bizarre manner as a boat carrying media equipment floated into the path of the swimmers and the horn sounded for a restart. Many swimmers did not hear the horn and swam 200 meters before they could be recalled.
2021 Tokyo Olympic Men’s Triathlon
July 25, 2021
S 1.5l / B 40k / R 10k
1. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) S 18:04 T1 00:39 B 56:19 T2 00:28 R 29:34 TOT 1:45:04
2. Alex Yee (GBR) S 18:09 R1 00L38 B 56:17 T2 00:27 R 29:44 TOT 1:45:15
3. Hayden Wilde (NZL) S 18:17 T1 B 56:07 T2 00:29 R 29:52 TOT 1:45:24
4. Marten Van Riel (BEL) S 17:45 T1 00:40 B 56:37 T2 b00:29 R 30:21 TOT 1:45:52
5. Jonathan Brownlee (GBR) S 17:49 R1b 00L38 B 56:38 T2 00:26 TOT 1:45:53
6. Kevin McDowell (USA) S 18:29 T1 00:37 B 55:56 T2 00:28 R 30:24 TOT 1:45:54
7. Bence Bicsák (HUN) S 17:55 T1 00:42 B 56:26 T2 b00:29 R 30:24 TOT 1:45:56
8. Gustav Iden (NOR) S 18:24 T1 00L39 B 55:59 T2 00:29 R 30:29 TOT 1:45:00
9. Max Studer (SUI) S 18:25 T1 00:39 B 55:59 T2 00:28 R 30:35 TOT 1:46:06
10. Mario Mola (ESP) S 18:21 mT1 00:38 B 56:06 T2 00:30 R 30:38 TOT 1:46:13
11. Casper Stornes (NOR) S 17:58 T1 00:42 B 56:21 T2 00:28 R 30:50 TOT 1:46:19
12. Fernando Alarza (ESP) S 18:20 T1 00L38 B 56:09 T1 b00:33 R 30:42TOT 1:46:22
13. Vincent Luis (FRA) S 17:39 T100:39 B 56:45 T2 00:30 R 30:51 TOT 1:46:24
14. Kenji Nener (JPN) S 17:51 T1 00:41 B 56:31 T2 00:21 R 30:53 TOT 1:46:24
15. Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN) S 17:50 T1 00:39 B 56:35 T2 00:29 R 30:55
16. Jacob Birtwhistle (AUS) S 18:14 T1 00:38 B 56:11 T2 00:28 R 31:01 TOT 1:46:32
17. Dorian Coninx (FRA) S 18:04 T100:41 B 56:18 T2 00:30 R 31:15 TOPT 1:46:48
18. Tayler Reid (NZL) S 17:45 T1 00:37 B 56:40 T2 00:27 R 31:25 TOPT 1:46:54
19. Makoto Odakura (JPN) S 18:21 T1 00:41 B 56:05 T2 00:30 R 31:26 TOT 1:47:03
20. Shachar Sagiv (ISR) S 18:12 T2 00:39 B 56:14 T2 00:28 R 31:37 TOT 1:47:10
25. Javier Gomez (ESP) S 18:2 T2 00:38 B 56:05 T2 00:33 R 32:008
42. Morgan Pearson (USA) S 18:02 T1 00:38 B 58:17 T2 00:36 R 34:32 TOT 1:52:05
49. Matthew Sharpe CAN) S 17:56 T1 00L39 B 56:31 T2 00:36 R 41:50 TOT 1:57:32
DNF Henri Schoeman (RSA) S 17:43 T1 00:40 B 56:41 T2 00:28 R 00:00