Following the coronavirus pandemic, which hampered races across every continent during the 2020 and 2021 seasons, the triathlon calendar was back to a full complement of competitions in 2022.
Triathlon fans were rubbing their hands gleefully every weekend, as action-packed fields saw the professionals go head-to-head across all distances from March until early December, as the battle for dominance in the post-pandemic era began.
With all the action came a whole host of drama, which we’ve narrowed down to our most dramatic moments, as part of our 2022 Year in Review series. We look back on the upsets, the fallouts and the heartaches as we close out another great year of triathlon. Enjoy!
How many laps?!
This was certainly one of the strangest moments of the year. Two-time World Triathlon Vincent Luis, typically regarded as being one of the most tactically astute athletes on the circuit, had something of a brain freeze at WTCS Leeds.
Approaching T2 in a brilliant position, having forced a two-up breakaway with countryman Leo Bergere, Vincent miscounted the laps and powered through the transition area. With the transition at the bottom of a fast descent, that resulted in crashing into the barriers that were now in place, the Roundhay Park course having been reconfigured for the run.
Rather than be upset, the circumstances of his year meant that Luis could still take positives from the race:
“I feel good, a lot better than in Yokohama. I had some heart issues in Yokohama and I had to go to surgery last Wednesday, so I wasn’t sure about racing, but I got the green light.
“Whatever happened in the race, I was just very happy to toe the line and finish the race. I feel good, the body is working like full gas again.”
Withdrawals, withdrawals, withdrawals!
Whilst every major event, from the Commonwealth Games to the IRONMAN World Championship, boasted some of the best fields in recent history, there was nearly always a notable absence from the field. With one or two big names always missing that often left triathlon fans speculating, ‘what if?’
In the short course world, one of the biggest shocks came in the build-up to the Commonwealth Games, as Jonny Brownlee was forced to withdraw following a bike crash at WTCS Leeds. To miss a major Games is tough, but for someone like Brownlee, to miss what would likely have been his last chance in front of a home crowd was absolutely devastating.
Over in the long course world, it was a double whammy for some of the biggest names, as the three biggest contenders for the status of “best ever male”, Javier Gomez, Alistair Brownlee and Jan Frodeno, all missed the IRONMAN World Championship events in St George as well as in Kona through either injury or illness.
In St George especially, the last minute withdrawal of Gustav Iden, plus the absences of Joe Skipper and Patrick Lange, left fans waiting almost five months until Kona for the highly anticipated showdown between the best athletes of 2022.
Alternates exceed expectations
Whilst the times recorded from the event cannot be officially ratified, the feat achieved by the athletes who participated in the Pho3nix Foundation Sub7Sub8 Project were landmark moments in the advancement of what’s possible in triathlon.
Whilst not the first choices for the project, British athletes Kat Matthews and Joe Skipper produced seismic efforts as replacements for Lucy Charles-Barclay and Alistair Brownlee to obliterate the Sub7Sub8 barriers.
Whilst Skipper was just beaten by rival Kristian Blummenfelt on the men’s side, Matthews managed to better Olympic Champion Nicola Spirig to take the win and come home in an astonishing time of 7:31:54.
The IRONMAN World Championship runner-up in St George produced a dominant display to take the tape, after rallying to overtake Spirig in the closing stages of the marathon to become the fastest female of all time over the full distance.
Can’t cramp me
At the very first edition of the PTO Canadian Open, Alistair Brownlee, Kristian Blummenfelt and Sam Laidlow were all left shaking their heads as their individual cramping issues left the door wide open for Gustav Iden to run home for the win.
As Brownlee left T2 with a sizeable lead over the Norwegians, there was a ripple of nervous excitement, as fans across the world stayed glued to their screens, hoping and praying that this was the day Brownlee made his mark on long-course racing against the best in the business.
Unfortunately, not long into the run, the double Olympic Champion was struck down by stomach cramps that quickly knocked him out of contention, and he was soon caught by Blummenfelt and Iden.
Next, it was Blummenfelt who unexpectedly pulled over to the side of the road, as the chasing two become one, with Iden ploughing ahead as his compatriot tried, successfully, to revive his race.
Just as he was about to relinquish the lead, Sam Laidlow, the unexpected pace-setter, was struck down as well, leaving Iden with nobody between himself and the finishing tape as Blummenfelt ran out of real estate following a second wind. Perhaps the most bizarre race we’ve ever witnessed, as the good luck that day seemed to rest solely in the hands of Iden.
Humble pie for Laidlow
As the season has developed, Sam Laidlow, who finished second at the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, has shown himself to be a great athlete as well as a great person, as he stepped up to the biggest stage in long course triathlon.
However, back in August, the jury was still out on the young Frenchman, after his comments about Sam Long in the build-up to their showdown at the PTO Collins Cup provoked an emotional response from the American and many others in the triathlon community.
As well as constantly needling him over social media in the build up to the race, Laidlow called out Long and his other match-up Lionel Sanders in the pre-race interview of the three, as he labelled them “duathletes” and taunted them that he could even beat them without the swim in Slovakia.
These comments, which were seen for the most part as being tongue in cheek, sparked an emotional response at the athletes’ press conference by Long who, to his credit, said his piece before settling it on the race course, as Laidlow recorded the slowest time of the day whilst the American and Sanders battled it out up the road.
Laidlow took it on the chin, saying “I was well and truly beaten. I got what I asked for, I guess.”
One slip is all it takes
Blummenfelt vs Iden, GTB vs Duffy and Yee vs Wilde are all match ups that have kept viewers on the edge of their seats this year, but triathlon fans were robbed of one of the best rivalries between Matt Hauser and Hayden Wilde before it reached the boil in the Super League Triathlon Championship Series.
Coming into the race in Malibu, the poster boys of Super League Triathlon were neck-and-neck, after both athletes had taken a victory each in the first two races in London and Munich.
With Hauser leading the overall standings by a single point heading into Malibu, fans were relishing the remaining three races with the chance of a potential showdown at the Grand Final in NEOM likely to decide the series; but it wasn’t to be.
Early on in the Eliminator format in Malibu, Hauser, who held a small gap over the field and looked poised to use his beach background to take the win in the surf of the Pacific, slipped out on the far corner of the bike course and crashed down hard on the concrete.
Once on his feet, Hauser quickly set about going again but faced problems with his bike, which while eventually resolved, saw him lose significant time to his competitors. With Hauser unaware of his position within the field, he crossed the line as one of the bottom two athletes eliminated in the round, and his crestfallen face at the sight of the “eliminated” flag was tough for anyone to watch.
Having been eliminated, and therefore receiving no points for the race, Hauser’s shot at the title was ruined. Wilde took the win in Malibu to put one hand firmly on the series title with two races to go.
Incidentally, Hauser ended up being the man to deny Wilde the World Triathlon title two months later, as the Australian finished fifth at the Championship Finals in Abu Dhabi as Wilde, in sixth, came up a place short of where he needed to be to take the overall win.