I received an email asking me what I thought the odds are that the USA men will lose a starting line position for triathlon at the Olympics.
In yesterday's blog I outlined the current issue. Let me give you more information today.
I think there is a high likelihood that the USA will indeed lose that third men's slot this weekend. The big question is by how much.
I don't know what the Russian Olympic qualifying process entails, so there might be some intersquad rivalries that I'm unaware of, but if I were coaching that Russian team, I would make my team strategy to do whatever it takes to get Polyansky the most points possible. Yes, this means all of his country men setting him up in anyway possible for a win - or as close to that as possible. No one from Russia ought to cross the line ahead of him. Every Russian male athlete should be working for Polyanksy - and they should be rewarded within the country system for doing so.
Does the country system reward such team work in Russia? I don't know.
Looking ahead now to Madrid, requires some looking back in time. First know that Hunter does not have the maximum number of races that go into this year's rankings. This is a good thing and means it is easier for Hunter to make a points gap than it is for Polyansky to make a gap at this point. Any points Hunter scores adds to his total. Polyansky needs to place higher and score more points than in a previous race, to build his points gap. You can see this by looking at the Olympic Rankings chart.
When they have raced at the same race, only twice in recent past, Hunter has gotten the nod. Kemper/Polyansky at Des Moines 2007 and Beijing 2007: 172 to 92 and 201 to 117 respectively. On paper, Kemper is the faster athlete.
In Madrid, ignoring any individual goals, the USA is sending four men and Russia is sending three. It is in the best interest of each country to sacrifice any individual goals to get Kemper or Polyansky in the best positions possible.
While the battle above is going on, don't turn a blind eye to Australia and Switerland. As I mentioned before, the four countries are close in points.
If I was a betting gal, I'd bet the USA will lose the position at the Richard's Bay World Cup; but get it back in Madrid and keep it through World Championships. Of course, I'm assuming no crashes, injuries, etc. for Kemper.