Joe Townsend previews the individual triathlon events at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. His best bets include backing two Brits to fill the void left by Alistair Brownlee's absence.
2pts Alex Yee to win a medal in men's triathlon at 9/5 (Paddy Power)
1pt Alex Yee to win gold in men's triathlon at 15/2 (Paddy Power)
1pt Morgan Pearson to win a medal in men's triathlon at 5/1 (Sky Bet, Paddy Power)
0.5pt Kristian Blummenfelt to win gold in men's triathlon at 13/2 (Paddy Power)
3pts Jess Learmonth to win a medal in women's triathlon at evens (Sky Bet, Paddy Power)
1pt Flora Duffy to win gold in women's triathlon at 6/1 (Sky Bet)
Sadly, from a British perspective anyway, gone are the days of the Brownlee brothers dominating men’s triathlon.
Elder brother Alistair, 2012 and 2016 Olympic champion, won’t be in Tokyo to defend his crown after switching to the longer, Ironman version of the sport before failing in a last-ditch attempt to qualify for a fourth successive Games, leaving Jonathan to carry the Brownlee banner alone.
But it hasn’t been a stellar few seasons for the younger sibling. He has registered a solitary World Triathlon Series (WTS) podium in near enough four years, and that was way back in 2019, so I wouldn't be rushing to back him - especially at the prices.
There is a new British hope however, who provides Team GB with a serious medal chance, and us with some much-welcomed value.
ALEX YEE backed up his fourth place in the WTS opener in Yokohama with a win in Leeds to head into his debut Olympics second in this season’s WTS standings.
Impressive enough for a 23-year-old still finding his way in the senior ranks, but all the more impressive when he would almost certainly have won that opening race in Japan had he not suffered stomach issues while leading in the closing stages of the run, which forced him to temporarily stop.
Priced at 15/2 to win and 9/5 for a medal (longer than team-mate Brownlee in both) backing him in both markets with a tiered staking plan is the way to go.
The 10/3 favourites (4/5 to medal) are both former world champions, Frenchman Vincent Luis and Spain's Mario Mola, but neither offer anything like certainty. For Yee to be more than twice their price really does beggar belief.
If this comes down to a foot race, as both the men's and women's races did on this course at the test event in 2019, it's unlikely anyone will live with Yee's running ability. The 27:51 he ran for a track 10,000m as a 20-year-old is unparalleled in triathlon circles.
Someone who will try and give him a run for his money is MORGAN PEARSON, another strong runner should the race come down to a 10k shootout.
Pipped to victory by Yee in West Yorkshire last month having been the pipper (if that’s even a word) a couple of weeks earlier in Japan to finish third, the American's prices of 25/1 for victory and 5/1 for a medal make great appeal - especially the latter.
Victory is unlikely though - he has done so once in 32 professional starts - so I would advise playing it smart.
KRISTIAN BLUMMENFELT is our final recommendation, and there is a certain amount of hedging here.
At present, a swim breakaway in the men's field looks unlikely, especially given the absence of regular lead-out man Richard Varga of Slovakia. But firstly, Varga is first reserve to fill any Covid-or-otherwise-enforced withdrawal, and secondly a breakaway could still happen, whether during the swim or bike.
Should that occur, Norway's three-pronged attack of Casper Stornes, Gustav Iden and Blummenfelt could very well be the instigators on the bike in an attempt to set the race up for the latter.
The 13/2 on offer for Blummenfelt to win appeals to small stakes, giving us a nice balance to our staking plan.
In stark contrast to Rio 2016, where Gwen Jorgensen of the USA was an overwhelming favourite, the women’s triathlon in Tokyo feels like it really is anyone’s to win - well, not anyone’s, but you get my drift.
Ask any follower of the sport who the best female triathlete on the planet is right now and it really would take some answering. This immediately draws a line through our odds-on favourites Katie Zaferes and Georgia Taylor-Brown of the USA and Team GB respectively.
They have seemingly been afforded top billing in the betting through being crowned world champion in 2019 (Zaferes) and 2020 (Taylor-Brown).
But Britain’s best hope for a medal - according to the bookies anyway - has not raced all season, while her American rival has trailed in 22nd and 18th in her two World Triathlon Series (WTS) appearances.
If you needed any further evidence of how this market has been priced, then Team GB’s Vicky Holland, who won bronze five years ago, is fourth in the betting - she was 2018’s best in the world.
Holland is yet to compete at the top level this season, with a fifth-place on the second-tier World Cup circuit her only outing.
There is one former world champion who does present value though, and that is FLORA DUFFY at an appealing 6/1.
Bermuda’s 2017 World Series winner returned from an injury-ridden period to finish fourth in Leeds last month at the final WTS event before the Games.
Most notably, the Commonwealth champion posted by far the fastest run split of the day. If she is in the pack after the bike leg she will take some beating.
When I say by far, only one athlete who will toe the line in Tokyo was within a minute of her 33:47 10k split.
Duffy’s poor swim showing in Leeds means I’m steering clear of the 2/1 about her to make the rostrum, and instead sticking to the smaller-stakes play of her taking home the gold.
Someone near enough guaranteed to be in the shake-up is Team GB’s JESS LEARMONTH.
There is no-one more consistent on the circuit than the 33-year-old, with her 19 podium finishes from 45 professional starts giving you a glimpse into the regularity with which she contends for honours. But since bursting onto the scene in 2017 her hit-rate for finishing in the top three is far better than that.
Twelve of her last 21 finishes have resulted in top threes, and it should be one more too.
In 2019, she and compatriot Taylor-Brown crossed the finish line together at the Olympic test event on this very course after dominating the field.
But they were holding hands, and as a consequence, disqualified.
Based on her form since 2017, my sums say Learmonth ought to be closer to the 5/8 mark to win an Olympic medal, and that’s without us factoring in her previous success on this course, runners-up finish at the most recent WTS event and proven Championship pedigree after claiming silver at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The evens about her is worth a sizeable stake, especially considering that she is the best swimmer on the circuit, and close to the best cyclist.
Only some kind of bad luck will prevent her from being in the running for the medals.
Posted at 1200 BST on 20/07/21
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