After having her WTS win streak broken last month at Gold Coast, U.S. star Gwen Jorgensen returned to form and blasted away on the run to win WTS Yokohama by 78 seconds for her 16th career WTS victory.
After finishing the bike leg just a few seconds behind the leaders, Jorgensen took over the lead in the first kilometer of the run and pulled away to finish in 1:56:02, with a 1:28 advantage on runner-up Ashleigh Gentle of Australia and 1:23 on 3rd-place finisher and home country favorite Ai Ueda of Japan.
Jorgensen's 32:15 10 run was 1:19 faster than next-fastest effort by runner-up Ashleigh Gentle.
The win was Jorgensen's 4th straight on the virtually flat Yokohama course, and the drama was all behind her as she already wrapped up the first U.S. women's Olympic slot last year in Chicago while U.S., Australian, Canadian and other women battled for the last few Olympic slots.
For the U.S., Jorgensen and Sarah True nailed the first two Olympic slots by top 8 finishes at the Rio Olympic Qualifying event in August. By virtue of several WTS podium finishes last year, Katie Zaferes had a big lead in points over a strong U.S. women's contingent going into Yokohama. While U.S. selectors technically have the option of choosing someone else, Zaferes remains a prohibitive favorite for the final U.S. women's Olympic slot; no other U.S. woman besides Gwen Jorgensen finished on the podium and Zaferes' 6th place finish at Yokohama was the best of the rest of the U.S. women.
After a 42-woman pack reached T2 in a clump, Jorgensen quickly grabbed the lead with Ai Ueda of Japan 2nd, Kristen Kasper of the U.S. 3rd, Renee Tomlin of the U.S. 5th, Summer Cook of the U.S. 6th, and Katie Zaferes trailing by 25 seconds.
By the end of the first lap, Cook was 2nd, 18 seconds back of Jorgensen, Kasper was 4th, also 18 seconds back, Tomlin was 7th, 19 seconds back, and Zaferes was 14th, 10 seconds back of Tomlin. At the end of lap 2, Ashleigh Gentle, Ai Ueda and Cook were 2-3-4 at 43 seconds back with Kasper 6th one further second back and Zaferes 12th, 10 seconds back of Kasper.
At the end of the 3rd lap of the run, the dream of the trio of American women to take the Olympic slot from Zaferes was all but over. Kasper fell to 6th, 19 seconds back of 3rd-place Ueda, while Zaferes advanced to 9th, ahead of Cook and Tomlin. On the final lap of the run, Zaferes passed Kasper and took 6th, the top American after Jorgensen and apparently punched her ticket to Rio.
With Emma Moffatt earning the first Australian Olympic women's slot last month at WTS Gold Coast, the Australian women did not have a clear cut Olympic selection criteria for the 2nd and 3rd Olympic slots. While the final decision will be up to Australian federation selectors, Ashleigh Gentle's strong 2nd place finish should put her on the start line at Rio as she was three places ahead of fellow Aussie Charlotte McShane's 5th place finish, 15 places ahead of Emma Jackson, and 31 places ahead of Erin Densham.
Gentle's silver medal performance did not come easy. After a sub-par swim, she started the bike leg 30 seconds down on the main pack and had to push hard to rejoin the contenders before unleashing a medal-winning run. “I was disappointed with my swim,” she said. “It was really choppy but there are no excuses. I really pushed the pace those first few laps [of the bike] to get in the game again. Ai Ueda is a fantastic runner and I knew with the home crowd support she was going to put up a fight. At the end I tried to hold back just a little a bit so hopefully I could have the legs for the sprint.”
That strategy worked and Gentle surged past Ueda with a few hundred meters to go.
As for the Canadian women, Amelie Kretz's 8th place finish was her nation's best effort and should assure her of a ticket to Rio. Kirsten Sweetland's 31st place and Paula Findlay's 32nd place finish will put them both on the radar of Canadian selectors.
Yokohama , Japan
May 14, 2016
S 1.5k / B 40k / R 10k
1. Gwen Jorgensen (USA) 1:56:02
2. Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) 1:57:20
3. Ai Ueda (JPN) 1:57:25
4. Andrea Hewitt (NZL) 1:57:33
5. Charlotte McShane (AUS) 1:57:34
6. Katie Zaferes (USA) 1:57:35
7. Emma Moffatt (AUS) 1:57:45
8. Amelie Kretz (CAN) 1:57:53
9. Kristen Kasper (USA) 1:58:02
10. Laura Lindemann (GER) 1:58:10
14. Summer Cook (USA) 1:58:31
17. Emma Jackson (AUS) 1:58:50
22. Lisa Norden (SWE) 1:59:24
26. Renee Tomlin (USA) 1:59:49
29. Lindsey Jerdonek (USA) 2:00:04
31. Kirsten Sweetland (CAN) 2:00:09
32. Paula Findlay (CAN) 2:00:18
33. Erin Densham (AUS) 2:00:46