No doubt Great Britain currently rules Olympic triathlon, with the Brownlees having led the charge on the men's side the past two Olympic cycles, Non Stanford and Helen Jenkins taking World Triathlon Series (WTS) championships, and Vicky Holland clinching a bronze in Rio just ahead of Stanford.
Across the Atlantic, the US has a strong legacy of world champions on the women's side. Its latest incarnation is seen in Gwen Jorgensen taking back-to-back world championships and an Olympic gold medal, and American women taking medal sweeps at WTS races.
“Success breeds a culture of success,” says Super League Triathlon co-founder Chris McCormack. “What the Brownlees did with their success and the culture that they bred, it’s widened that success amongst the males and females in Great Britain. Vicky Holland really capitalized on training with those guys, you had Helen Jenkins as a favourite in London and young World Champion Non Stanford… When you’ve got Olympic and world champions in your national training camps, the clarity of what it takes, is right in front of you. The depth in the UK right now is simply mindblowing.”
The same goes for the US, McCormack says. “The yardstick being when you’re a young female athlete you’re looking up at Gwen Jorgensen and Katie Zaferes. You’re at training camps and at the biggest events in the world with them as part of the national team. You absorb everything. Gwen is the best, and is in the same uniform as yourself, and you absorb this mindset and culture as your own. It is contagious.”
These two nations arguably have the deepest wells of talent, with any of their top female athletes as leading contenders for any titles they contest. At Super League Jersey, they will all toe the line together, setting the scene for blisteringly fast and furious racing.
The US talent pool is deep. Katie Zaferes has had a meteoric rise through the ranks, taking only three years from her beginning on the International Triathlon Union (ITU) circuit to making the Olympic team last year. She has also figured in the three podium sweeps on the World Triathlon Series that trumpeted the USA’s dominance in the past Olympic cycle. Summer Cook led the sweep of the WTS Edmonton podium in Jorgensen’s absence last year and was named the ITU Breakout Star of the Year. Kirsten Kasper this year has shown a maturity and strength to her racing that has moved her to a top-five world ranking.
McCormack tags young talent Taylor Spivey as one to watch especially after her breakthrough podium at WTS Leeds only three years after she turned pro in 2014. “The other women are consistently performing, but they’ve been at the game longer. She’s an athlete to look for. She seems to have come a long way and has a nice way of racing. She’s just a opportunistic racer, which signals a smart racing head on her shoulders. You can develop talent, but racing smarts can take years to perfect. She is mature beyond her racing experience in this sense.”
Great Britain’s racers at Super League Jersey draw not just from talent, but also experience. Lucy Hall, Jodie Stimpson, and Non Stanford have a combined 159 starts, 48 podiums, and 27 wins between them. They also compete fiercely against each other for Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games selection.
Emma Pallant is the outsider, an under-23 European cross-country champion turned triathlete, two-time duathlon world champion, and Ironman 70.3 UK winner. Super League Triathlon is her opportunity to compete against the women she doesn’t get to compete against because, according to McCormack, “She doesn’t toe the federation lines. She’s doing 70.3 because she was shut out of the Olympic program. She never had the opportunity to showcase her talent as an ITU racer because she didn’t want to go to Leeds and leave her coach Michelle Dillon who’s a dual Olympian for Great Britain. If she can reconvert her racing speed after a couple of years at long distance racing, she has the point to prove that could be pivotal in determining results at Super League Triathlon’s dynamic mixed-format racing.”
It will be a mighty clash on 23-24 September in Jersey. With the way their strengths may play out, shoulder-to-shoulder racing will start from the gun as the Americans and the British are well-matched in the water. The Americans are more aggressive on the bike, but on the run it’s once again a toss-up.
“The Brits have a gritty style of racing and I would tend to give the edge to them if the distances are longer and it gets into a match race,” says McCormack. “But the Americans are younger racers. Youth and inexperience have unpredictability and raw speed, which is so beneficial in Super League racing.”
Which of these two triathlon nations will rule Super League Jersey, and will it be a top name or a dark horse? Join the conversation on social media. Follow Super League Triathlon on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and use our hashtags #IAmSuperLeague #ItsWorthIt