June 24 (Reuters) - Five triathletes to watch out for at the Tokyo Olympics:
MARIO MOLA (SPAIN)
World junior champion in 2009, the Spaniard has been one of the most consistent performers in the sport, claiming a hat-trick of world titles from 2016-2018. However, he was never really in the mix in his two Olympic appearances, finishing 19th in London and eighth at the 2016 Rio Games, and will be desperate to make his mark in Tokyo.
KRISTIAN BLUMMENFELT (NORWAY) The Norwegian exploded out of lockdown with back-to-back victories in the first two world series races of the season in May, picking up where he left off by winning the 2019 Grand Final in Lausanne.
Remarkably consistent during the 2017 and 2018 with a series of silver and bronze performances, he is also the world record holder for the 70.3 half-ironman distance.
ALEX YEE (BRITAIN)
When the sport went into hibernation Yee was still making the transition from “next big thing” to podium challenger but at 23 he has shown he is now ready to continue Britain’s great Olympic triathlon pedigree by blasting to victory in the World Series event at Leeds at the start of June.
If he can stay in or near the lead pack on the bike there are few who can live with his run pace -- illustrated when he won the British 10,000 metres title on the track in 2018.
TAYLOR KNIBB (UNITED STATES)
Knibb will become the United States’ youngest ever triathlete after the 23-year-old secured a surprise automatic qualification in emphatic style by winning May’s Yokohama world series event.
The former double world junior champion showcased her cycling talent by opening a two-minute lead over the main pack at Yokohama and ran strongly enough to win -- albeit after yelling at officials to confirm she was on her final lap of the 10km course.
NICOLA SPIRIG (SWITZERLAND)
Switzerland’s 2012 champion and 2016 silver medallist is the most successful women triathlete in Olympic history and just when many observers thought her podium days were over she showed that, at 39, she has not given up on adding to her haul of titles by storming to victory in the World Cup event in Lisbon in May.
Reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by Peter Rutherford