Richard Allen cuts through the knot that the Team GB selection panel struggled to unravel.
Selecting a triathlon team for the Olympics always creates controversy and this year was no exception. With only three of the six spots filled by outright qualification, the decision of which athletes would complete the team was left in the hands of a selection panel.
Obviously, the Brownlee brothers and Helen Jenkins earned their places on the team. They are the best and will do us proud. After them, you’d have thought Will Clarke, Tim Don, Liz Blatchford and Jodie Stimpson would be next in line based on their recent results and rankings. But without a podium finish at an ITU World Triathlon Series (WTS) event, they simply did not make the selection criteria. This resulted in the full selection having to be decided by a panel, and they chose Stuart Hayes, Vicky Holland and Lucy Hall. But was it a smart choice?
Clarke and Don are both world-class athletes and have been at the top of their game for years. They both had top-eight finishes in the qualification races so you’d be forgiven for thinking one of them would be starting in London. However, I remember writing a column last year about the Olympics and I picked Hayes.
I went with Hayes because of the way races unfold these days, largely thanks to the Brownlee brothers. The Yorkshire lads swim extremely fast and then, instead of settling into the pack during the bike, attack and push the pace throughout. This means that, more often that not, there’s a small breakaway pack of eight to 10 guys going into the run and the medal winners come from this select group.
To the best of my knowledge neither Clarke nor Don have ever made this breakaway pack in a WTS event, while Hayes has shown that he can. If Hayes makes it into this group at the Olympics he has an outside chance of competing for a medal. More importantly, he can work with Alistair and Jonny to put more time between them and the chasing pack. By doing so, they can ensure that a strong runner, who has stayed in the main pack to keep fresher, can’t pose a threat. Hayes said, recently, that he’s not yet been told he’s a domestique and that people are mistaken to believe this is the case. He maintains he was selected on the basis of is results and aggressive racing tactics during the Olympic cycle. Do the Brownlees need a domestique? Absolutely not. Many have overlooked Hayes but I wholeheartedly believe he deserves his place.
The women’s selection – I’m struggling to understand. Helen Jenkins is the female equivalent of the Brownlees. She swims at the front, drives the pace on the bike and then runs well out of a small group to consistently win. I can see why the panel selected Vicky Holland who, like Hayes, will enhance the lead group and is a long shot for a medal. But I feel that the selection panel have ignored some athletes who could have complemented the women’s team.
Liz Blatchford has consistency and experience, while Jodie Stimpson could add to the lead group’s drive with her gritty determination. Surprisingly, the selection panel shunned these two and selected a girl who I’ve honestly never heard of. In this case, they really have gone for a pure domestique.
I understand that Hall is a very strong swim/biker but I don’t think she has the big race experience to be a good domestique at the Olympic Games. What’s more, I think anyone selected should at have an outside chance at winning a medal, even if they are working for their teammates. I’m sure Hall will do us all proud and, were I in her shoes, I’d have jumped at the chance to go to the Olympics. That said, I can’t help but think she’d be a better pick for 2016.
Our team’s selection criteria, I believe, was too high. It was impossible for some potential medal winners to qualify, leaving it open to the selection panel. The UK has a big pool of triathlon talent so the simplest option would have been to take the first three British athletes across the line in the selection races. That would have been clear and left nothing for anyone to argue with. The bottom line is that Jenkins and the Brownlees don’t need domestiques. I don’t believe sending athletes to sacrifice their chances for others is in keeping with the Olympic spirit.
This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine. Save time and money by having every issue delivered to your door or digital device by subscribing to the print edition or buying digitally through Zinio or Apple Newsstand.
You’ll find loads more blogs from the likes of Rich, Phil Graves, Steve Trew and the Triathlon Plus team in triradar.com’s blogs section