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May 17, 2014 (ISN) – Sarah-Anne Brault began the road to Rio with a seventh-place finish in the first official qualifying race on the World Triathlon Series Saturday in Yokohama, Japan.

The 24-year-old Quebecer, who grew up in Winnipeg, has emerged as the top Canuck on the elite circuit after posting career-best fourth, and seventh-place finishes in a trio of early season races this year.

The former track star at West Virginia University clocked a time of two hours, three seconds (2:00:03) while battling through the warm conditions of the Olympic distance course in Yokohoma that consisted of a 1.5-kilometre swim, 40-kilometre bike, and 10-kilometre run.

“I was quite excited to race this weekend because training has been going well. I felt like I could improve upon my performance in Cape Town (where I was 19th) because the courses were similar,” said Brault, who missed most of the 2013 season with a stress fracture. “I was very pleased with my swim, but just a little disappointed we didn’t stay away (from the chase pack.).”

Brault stayed out of trouble while working in the lead group of a congested bike leg that had more than 40 of the world’s best women’s triathletes storming into the second transition – leaving the 10-kilometre run to decide the winner in the third of eight races on the WTS calendar that culminates with the Grand Final in Edmonton, August 26 – September 1.

“I learned from the Cape Town race, and built the run a little bit. I ran within myself and left it all out there,” said Brault who has been working with Triathlon Canada’s new head coach, Jamie Turner, for the first time this year. “I think the results show the work we’ve been doing Down Under and it has been a great feeling to be mixing it up with the big names.”

Mixing it up is an understatement. The colourful Canuck sits fourth overall in the World Triathlon Series standings after three races, and the first of a two-year Olympic qualifying period.

“Single digit tattoos are easier to apply before a race so I’m going to do my best to keep that ranking nice and high this year,” laughed Brault. “I know the Olympic qualifying has started, but the day-to-day work remains the same. We have a great team behind us to ensure we are ready to perform when it matters in the build-up to Rio.”

I still believe I have some room to grow, especially in my run, because I’m still building my training. Every race is a learning experience for me at this point so I’m excited for the next couple of years ahead.”

Brault has some work left to do to close the gap on the podium. Gwen Jorgensen, of the United States, hammered the field for the second straight year in Japan after posting a time of 1:58:36 – nearly 40 seconds ahead of the next best athlete.

Two first-time medal winners grabbed the final two spots on podium. Japan’s Ai Ueda had the race of her life to thrill the hometown crowd with a silver medal finish after clocking a silver-medal time of 1:59:14. Poland’s Agnieszka celebrated the bronze after stopping the clock at 1:59:24.

Two other Canadian women also suited up on Saturday. Victoria’s Kirsten Sweetland was in the mix through the swim and bike leg, but still does not have her run fitness since returning from injury. The 25 year old placed 29th at 2:02:11. Joanna Brown, of Carp, Ont., rounded out the Canadian contingent in 34th (2:02:57).

Meanwhile, Canada’s Andrew Yorke posted his career-best result on the World Triathlon Series after crossing the line in 15th place. Yorke, of Caledon, Ont., who has been on a steady development curve cracked the top-15 for the first time after hanging on through a sizzling run pace to clock a total time of 1:47:45.

The elite men put on a show as the pack of just over 30 athletes hammered the pace out of the second transition. With the trio of legendary names including Spain’s Javier Gomez along with Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee trying to immediately break the field on the 10-kilometre run, it was another Spaniard – Mario Mola along with South Africa’s Richard Murray – that not only hung on for the ride but dropped the struggling Brownlee’s midway through the run with Gomez.

With Murray also dropping off the lead pack in the final lap, it was the two Spaniards battling it out for the title. When the dust final settled, Gomez, won the sprint to the finish for his third straight victory this year. Gomez stopped the clock at 1:45:31. Mola settled for the silver with a time of 1:45:31, while Murray celebrated the bronze medal at 1:46:00.

The final two Canadians did not finish the race. Kyle Jones, of Oakville, Ont., who was battling illness was forced to the sidelines early in the bike leg, while Victoria’s Andrew McCartney pulled out after the second transition.

The World Triathlon Series now returns to the 2012 Olympic course in London, May 31 – June 1.

Triathlon Canada is the governing body for triathlon in the country. Recognized as an Olympic medal sport since 2000 and Paralympic medal sport as of 2016, Triathlon Canada’s mandate is to promote, foster, organize and develop the sport of triathlon, and its related disciplines, in Canada. For more information on Triathlon Canada, please visit us at www.triathloncanada.com on the Internet.

Complete Results (1.5 kilometre swim, 40 kilometre bike, 10 kilometre run): www.triathlon.org

Top-Five Women’s Results:

1.Gwen Jorgensen, USA, 1:58:36; 2. Ai Ueda, JPN, 1:59:14; 3. Agnieszka Jerzyk, POL, 1:59:24; 4. Yuka Sato, JPN, 1:59:43; 5. Alice Betto, ITA, 1:59:58.

Other Canadian Results:

7. Sarah-Anne Brault, Quebec, 2:00:03; 29. Kirsten Sweetland, Victoria, 2:02:11; 34. Joanna Brown, Carp, Ont., 2:02:57

Top-Five Men’s Results:

1. Javier Gomez, ESP, 1:45:31; 2. Mario Mola, ESP, 1:45:31; 3. Richard Murray, RSA, 1:46:00; 4. Alistair Brownlee, GBR, 1:46:27; 5. Jonathan Brownlee, GBR, 1:46:29

Other Canadian Results:

15. Andrew Yorke, Caledon, Ont., 1:47:45; DNF. Kyle Jones, Oakville, Ont.; DNF. Andrew McCartney, Victoria.

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