Rio de Janeiro—Canada’s Tyler Mislawchuk will take a wealth of experience with him on the road to Tokyo 2020 after gutting out a solid 15th place result in his first taste of Olympic triathlon racing on Thursday in Rio de Janeiro.
Making his Olympic debut on the eve of his 22nd birthday, the youngest man in the field clocked a time of 1:47:50 under intense heat and humidity on a brutally demanding course that rewards the strongest all-round triathlete. But Mislawchuk will leave Rio wondering “what if?”
“Everyone knew it was going to be hard. An ocean swim, it was so hot, but the heat didn’t bother me too much today,”said Mislawchuk. “I am happy with the effort but unfortunately I know what could have been. I was just two or three seconds away from missing that lead pack onto the bike. Getting into that group would have been the difference from racing for top-5 or top-15, but that is racing.”
A model of progression over the last two years, Mislawchuk’s performance in Rio is validation he is ready to carry the torch for Canadian triathlon towards 2020 and beyond. Heading into his first Olympic start Mislawchuk posted a career-best seventh-place finish in his final World Triathlon Series and also has two 10ths, an 11th and 14th-place finish in his six starts on top triathlon series in the world.
The Oak Bluff, Man. resident was ready for a next major test in his development – lining up with the world’s elite at the Olympic Summer Games.
Mislawchuk battled through high surf in the 1.5-kilometre non-wetsuit swim off the famed Copacabana Beach where he came out of the water in 19th spot before just missing latching onto the back end of a lead group of 10 riders who hammered the pace up the punishing hills, fast descents and narrow roadways winding through the streets of Rio for the 40-kilometre bike course
“There were three or four guys between me and the lead group that dropped off the wheel of the front group on the first hill, and unfortunately we missed it. This is the Olympics though. You can’t miss by one per cent,” said Mislawchuk.
The young Canuck worked in the first chase pack for the opening three laps of the bike before forming into a large group of 40 riders that raced just over one minute behind the leaders for the back half of the eight-lap course.
“I was working pretty hard the whole ride. There were only five or six of us working out of that big group which was a bit frustrating because who knows what we could have done if we were better organized,” added Mislawchuk. “But this is the Olympic race. I didn’t want to sit in for 20th spot. I wanted to put it all out there and that’s what I did today.”
When foot hit pavement in second transition, Great Britain’s Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee took off the front with Vincent Luis of France for most of the first lap. The pace was too much for Luis who let the Brownlee brothers go. It turned into a high-paced family run along the famed Copacabana beach for the British brothers.
Taking in huge amounts of water throughout the 10-kilometre run to stay hydrated and fight off the extreme heat, the Brownlee’s matched strides until the midway mark of the four-lap run where the reigning Olympic champion, Alistair, broke away for a golden run into the history brooks.
Alistair Brownlee became the first back-to-back winner in Olympic triathlon history with a time of 1:45:01. Jonathan Brownlee, who won the bronze in 2012, suffered a world of hurt to hang on for the silver medal at 1:45:07.
With the rest of the field battling it out for third spot, it was South Africa’s Henri Schoeman enjoying the run of his life to hop onto the bronze-medal step of the podium with a time of 1:45:43.
Canada’s only other entry in the men’s race, Andrew York of Caledon, Ont., gets the nod for the most courageous performance despite finishing 42nd.
Coming out of the water well back of the leaders, Canada’s 27-year-old Andrew Yorke drilled the pace for the second chase pack to help form one large chase group. The Caledon, Ont. native continued pushing the pace to lead the large train of riders until the seventh of eight laps on the bike where he got tangled up with riders who went down in front of him and crashed to the pavement.
“I was on a downhill and was just trying to conserve energy. I heard a crash ahead of me, and that point you are just guessing. I couldn’t see anything. The guys in front of me parted and I hit back edge of the tire ahead of me. My front wheel punctured and I went down, said an emotional Yorke at the finish line. “I just ran to the next wheel stop. I didn’t know if I could finish the bike.”
Determined to finish his first Olympic race, Yorke dug deep to get back on his feet, run to a wheel stop, and get back on the bike to finish the race and post a time of 1:52:46.
“I worked a long time to get here. I just wanted to put my head down and finish. I have only crashed twice in my professional career. It’s a gamble you take every time you start a race. It sucks that it happened here but there is no way I was going to quit. I just never quit and that’s why I’m here.
“I hope everyone is okay. I am very happy for Tyler (Mislawchuk). He is an amazing athlete and person, and been awesome teammate here for me.”
Canada’s Amelie Kretz (Blainville, Que.), Kirsten Sweetland (Victoria) and Sarah-Anne Brault (Quebec City) will hit the start line on Copacabana Beach for the women’s race on Saturday, August 20.