Our Rio Olympics countdown is well underway and this week the spotlight is shining on the athletes representing Ecuador, Estonia, France and Great Britain. 

Text by Jessica Erin Broderick, Erin Lockwood & Jordan Blanco | Images by Witsup

 

 ECUADOR
Bravo (c) Witsup

Elizabeth Bravo

Growing up amongst a family bursting with athletic ability, it was only a matter of time before Bravo followed suit and discovered her love and talent for triathlon. A gifted ballet dancer in her youth, Bravo found her triathlon legs at the age of 18 and hasn’t looked back since. Notably one of the best triathletes Ecuador has produced, 29 yr-old Bravo from Cuenca, works as an Physical Therapist/Osteopath when she isn’t training or racing. Come August she will be competing in her second Olympic Games, after representing Ecuador in the 2012 London Olympics, where she finished 49th.

After a disappointing race at the beginning of May in Huatulco (ITU World Cup), Bravo knew she had make amends the following week to secure here final chance at Olympic qualification. After what she describes as a “stressful and expensive” qualification process, Bravo finished second at the Asian Cup Sprint race in Burabay, Kazakhstan to qualify her for Rio.  

Since the London games, Bravo has had career highlights such as a fourth place at the 2015 Pan American Games that were held in Toronto. So far in 2016 she has been a dominant force on the CAMTRI Triathlon America Cup scene, most recently taking the win in Ibarra, showing she is in fine form heading to Rio.

 

 

 

ESTONIA

Kivioja (c) Witsup

Kaidi Kivioja

Kaidi Kivioja will make history as the first female athlete from Estonia to compete in triathlon at the Olympic Games. As one of the youngest in the field, the 23-year-old cycling powerhouse earned the European New Flag spot through strong performances at the start of the 2016 season.  Back to back 10th place finishes at a stacked Mooloolaba World Cup in March and WTS Capetown in April, followed by a fifth place at the gruelling Huatulco World Cup in May solidified her Olympic berth.

Kivioja’s swim coach urged her to give triathlon a try at the age of 15, and she was instantly hooked. “I enjoyed the challenge and diversity, and as a bonus I was winning everything in my age group in Estonia, and felt that I had found my place in sport.”

Despite having success as a junior, including podiums at Junior European Cups and 12th at the 2012 Junior World Championships in Auckland – New Zealand, she knew her swim needed development to be competitive at the elite level. “I didn’t give up, and with consistent work and learning a lot from different groups and athletes, “I’ve improved a lot. The biggest gains I made were actually psychological- I started believing in myself more.”

The challenging bike course in Rio suits Kivioja and her cycling prowess. This is where she plans to make her mark on August 20th – “In Rio it’s clear that I won’t be a major factor, but I want do give my all and have some sort of an impact on the race and my biggest chances for doing that are on the bike.”

Kivioja will finish a training camp at home in Estonia before heading to Portugal to put the finishing touches on her preparation for Rio.

 

 

 

FRANCE

Charayron (c) Witsup

Emmie Charayron

We were very sad to hear the recent news that selected French triathlete Emmie Charayron would not be going to her second Olympic Games this August, due to injury. We wish her the best for her recovery and look forward to seeing this stellar athlete back on fine form very soon.  

“It is with great sadness that I inform you that I won’t be able to run the Olympic games. I fought to get back to my best level and this injury should not be only one incident. I will continue my journey to achieve what I think. Back to training in six weeks.” 

At the time of this article, it is unconfirmed who will be selected in Charayron’s place to represent France at the Rio Olympic Games.

 

 

GREAT BRITAIN

Great Britain has enough depth in women’s triathlon to field two Olympic teams, so the biggest headline this year has been Jodie Stimpson missing out on making the team in favour of Helen Jenkins. Non Stanford and Vicky Holland secured automatic selection at last year’s Rio test event. While Stimpson is left to focus on the World Triathlon Series (“WTS”) for the remainder of the season, the British Olympic team members, Stanford, Holland and Jenkins, are squarely focused on the Olympic Games, with each team member considered a medal threat.

Stanford (c) Witsup

Non Stanford

After placing second to USA’s Gwen Jorgensen at last year’s Rio test event, as well as the Chicago WTS Grand Final, Stanford has to be considered one of the major gold medal contenders in Rio next month. The Brit was the World U23 champion in 2012 and stepped up to win the senior World Championship title in 2013 before spending most of 2014 and the early part of 2015 sidelined with injuries. Her return to racing last summer in Rio was both spectacular and timely, securing her Olympic berth a year in advance. Stanford’s 2016 season has included mixed results so far. After winning her 2016 debut WTS race over the sprint distance in Capetown, South Africa in April, a sub-par swim left her chasing for the entire day in her hometown race in Leeds and she had to settle for ninth place. More recently, she crashed out of the WTS race in Stockholm – but thankfully suffered no serious injuries.

Stanford trains with a large contingent of British triathletes in Leeds (England), under the guidance of British Triathlon Head Coach, Ben Bright. The squad includes fellow teammate Vicky Holland and gold and bronze medalists on the men’s side from London, Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee.

 

 

 

Holland (c) Witsup

Vicky Holland

Rio 2016 marks Holland’s second appearance in an Olympic Games, having raced and finished 26th in London four years ago. She has improved steadily in the years since London, winning the Commonwealth Games title in the Teams event in Glasgow in the summer of 2014 and taking her first WTS wins last season. Like Stanford, Holland secured automatic selection to the British team by virtue of her third place finish at last summer’s test event in Rio, finishing just behind her compatriot Stanford and another podium at the Chicago WTS Grand Final. Holland was ranked fourth overall in the 2015 WTS after her wins at Capetown and Edmonton and a third place finish at the Chicago Grand Final. So far in 2016, Holland has performed solidly, taking third place at her hometown race in Leeds and a fourth place at the recent Stockholm race, but we have yet to see the sparkling run form of late 2015.

 

 

 

Jenkins (c) Witsup

Helen Jenkins

Two-time triathlon world champion (2008 and 2011), Helen Jenkins, was one of the gold medal favorites for the 2012 London Olympics in front of a hometown crowd. However, numerous back issues in the lead up to the games curtailed her preparation and the Brit faltered on the run and finished fifth in that race. Injuries have continued to plague Jenkins during the intervening years since the London Games. “It’s been a long process to avert injury problems and I’m not sure I will ever fully be rid of them,” Jenkins tells us, “but I have an awesome team around me to help me keep on top of the back issues.”

Despite Jenkins’ palmares, she was not necessarily expected to make the British team, especially since her competitor for the third and final spot, Stimpson, had started the 2016 season in stunning style with wins at WTS Abu Dhabi and the Mooloolaba World Cup race. The British selectors identified the WTS Gold Coast race as the decider for the Games team, so it was essentially the only race that mattered during the first half of the season. While Stimpson faltered in the swim, Jenkins’ aggressiveness on the bike, working in tandem with Bermuda’s Flora Duffy and New Zealand’s Andrea Hewitt, gave the trio a two minute lead on the chasing women into T2. Jenkins ran aggressively and the time gap was enough to secure the win against a field that included Gwen Jorgensen, breaking the American’s 13 race unbeaten streak.

Jenkins is coached by her husband, Marc, and they are based in Bridgend, Wales, training with the local swim team, biking and running solo and working with Sport Wales for assistance with rehab and physical therapy.

 

 

At the time of this article being collated there were notably a few countries who were yet to confirm their selected athletes. Once we have confirmation on these athletes they will be featured in our Rio Olympics Countdown.

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