By Kent Gray/
The numbers have been crunched, potential threats identified, and race strategies crystalised. Now it’s over to Dylan McCullough and Tayler Reid to quiet all the outside noise and deliver, once again, with little more than a fortnight left before the XXXIII Olympiad qualification window slams shut.

After the abandonment of Abu Dhabi in early March, Saturday’s mouth-watering WTCS Yokohama is the reimagined start of the 2024 world championship season but more pertinently the penultimate chance for the Kiwi team-mates to nail Paris starts.

The opportunity to meet Tri NZ’s secondary qualifying criteria of two top 8s at WTCS level – in Yokohama and at WTCS Cagliari in Italy on May 25 – remains possible.


WTCS Yokohama – How to Watch
Women’s Race | SKY Sport 7 – Channel 57 | 1pm Saturday NZT
Men’s Race | SKY Sport 7 – Channel 57 | 3:45pm Saturday NZT
Coverage also available on from 1pm NZT


If things don’t go to plan in Yokohama, World Cup Samarkand in Uzbekistan on Saturday week might also come into consideration given the slightly inferior start-lists anticipated but still good standard distance points on offer.

But neither McCullough nor Reid is thinking that way. Beyond two WTCS top 8s, the other option is to persist inside the top-30 of World Triathlon’s Olympic Qualifications Rankings when the window closes on May 27 – two days after Cagliari.

That would give New Zealand three men on the start line – Kiwi No.1 Hayden Wilde is currently 2nd in the Olympic rankings – in Paris on July 30, pending NZOC ratification.

McCullough finished 26th in Yokohama last year.

McCullough enters Yokohama 26th and Reid 28th, the latter after a herculean effort to haul himself into the top 30 in the past month after a slow start to 2024.

To improve their rankings on Saturday, McCullough needs to finish no worse than 20th and Reid 23rd or better. That is easier said than done, of course, with a host of other big names also desperate to seal their Olympic ambitions.

Indeed, the two-lap 1500m swim, flat and fast 40km bike and 10km run presents one of the strongest short course fields since the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Reigning WTCS champion Dorian Coninx, 2022 winner Léo Bergere and the return of 2019 and 2020 world champion Vincent Luis is sure to give the race much French flair. Aussie Matt Hauser, fresh from his Oceania sprint gold in Taupo, will look to enhance his Paris medal credentials and forget not reigning Olympic champion Kristain Blummenfelt (Norway). Or Vasco Vilaca. Canadian Tyler Mislawchuk, Belgian Jelle Geens and…on and on the list goes.

For the Kiwis, it is those around them on the Olympic Qualification Rankings list that pose perhaps the greatest threat. In that regard, 27th placed Lasse Nygaard Priester (Germany), 29th ranked Alberto Gonzalez Garcia (Spain) and Norwegian No.30 Vetle Bergsvik Thorn will be watched closely.

Dangerous also are David Castro Fajardo (Spain), Italy’s Gianluca Pozzatti, Ricardo Batista (Portugal) and Sergio Baxter Cabrera (Spain), along with Brit Adrien Briffod who is on the comeback trail from injury.

They’re all ranked between 33rd and 37th place respectively and have low point races to replace (Briffod two of them) so could make big gains in Yokohama.

The Olympic Qualification Rankings are calculated over two, one-year long periods. Up to 8 results can count in the second period about to close. McCullough will use the next two races in an attempt to replace his lowest haul of the second period – 267.98 points for 9th place at World Cup Chengdu last October. For Reid, the hopeful discard in the next fortnight will be for his 170.51 points gained at WTCS Montreal where he was 20th last June.

Reid at yesterday’s media conference.

The Gisborne 27-year-old enters Yokohama in high spirits having climbed from outside the top 50 in the rankings with 2nd, 3rd and 4th places respectively at the Oceania Standard Distance Championships in Taupo and at World Cups in Wollongong and Chengdu.

McCullough, 23, will race for the first time since his runaway triumph at the Oceania Sprint Distance Championships in Devonport, Tasmania on March 16. He’s been playing it safe with an ankle niggle since and will hope to get through his first standard distance race since Chengdu last October unscathed.

Earlier on Saturday, Nicole van der Kaay and Ainsley Thorpe will hope to be swept up in the fascinating races within the elite women’s race as countrywomen look to outdo each other to enhance their Paris claims.

Just as Wilde and his Great British rival Alex Yee are bypassing the men’s race to focus on Cagliari, reigning world champion Beth Potter (GBR) and runner-up Cassandre Beaugrand (France) aren’t racing Yokohama.

However, the USA, GBR, Australian and French battles within the battles will be captivating, none more so than Rio Olympic champion Gwen Jorgensen’s fight with Taylor Spivey, Summer Rappaport and Kirsten Kasper to join already qualified Taylor Knibb in the USA team for Paris.

The return of Tokyo Olympic champion Flora Duffy after a long term injury layoff is also much anticipated. The Bermuda superstar hasn’t raced since defending her world title in Abu Dhabi in November 2022.

Van der Kaay has met the secondary qualification standard for Paris and will look to build on a P7 at World Cup Chengdu. Likewise, Thorpe will be keen to test herself at the top level after a pair of bronze medals at the Oceania Standard Distance Championship in Taupo and at World Cup Wollongong.

The key for both is to stay as connected as possible in the swim to let their bike and run prowess shine through.

Van der Kaay’s footspeed in particular is a strength she is trying to unleash. But the key work-on, her swimming, is taking time under Estonian coach Paulo Sousa.

“Closing the gap on the swim is getting closer but not quite 🤏,” van der Kaay wrote on social media after running her way to 7th after missing the front pack out of the water and having to work hard on the bike.

“With a few more seconds and a bit more luck, an average day could have been turned into a great one! It is what it is, onto the next 🇯🇵.”

Other Kiwis racing this weekend are James Corbett and Will Taylor at Asian Triathlon Cup Taizhou in Chin and Lachlan Haycock at European Triathlon Cup Carole in Italy.

WTCS Yokohama Start Lists

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