GULFWEEKLY: The Bahrain Endurance 13 team are gunning for gold at the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games with an all-star roster of athletes described by the squad’s director of sport as the strongest they’ve ever fielded.
Michael Gilliam, the team’s director of sport for the past seven years, has high hopes for the team, stating that they have been the most successful endurance team in history with more than 18 world titles won in the Bahrain colours and a high-performance culture that has become legendary in sports.
He said: “What started as a vision and a discussion of a future for the sport of triathlon with His Highness Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, has become the most valuable racing entity within the sport.” The one-of-a-kind team rides under the vision of Shaikh Nasser, His Majesty King Hamad’s representative for humanitarian work and youth affairs.
“For this year’s 2021-2022 team, we have brought on some of the best young talent in the world, with a big focus on Tokyo Olympic Games success and then to be extremely successful in Paris Olympics,” Gilliam added.
“This year’s team is strong and experienced but we will bring a new generation of stars along to future proof the teams racing into the next Olympic cycle.”
The Games will be held from July 23 to August 8 and the team will be focusing on the two medal events for triathlon – the individual event as well as mixed relay, which will make its Olympic debut.
Joining Bahrain Endurance 13’s Olympic bronze medallist Vicky Holland, silver medallist Javier Gomez and two-time gold medallist and reigning Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee, will be 2016 Olympic bronze medallist Henri Schoeman.
Gilliam added: “We are focused on the team gold medal which I think we will win as part of our team and our strong French athletes.
“There is also a big focus on individual gold medals with our defending Olympic champion Brownlee back to try and win three Olympic gold medals. Add to our Olympic mix, Schoeman who is an Olympic Bronze medallist from Rio and Tyler Mislawchuk, the winner of the Olympic test event, the team will be all over the front of the Olympic men’s race.
“On the women’s side both Cassandre Beaugrand and Holland start as favourites to win medals at the Games. The team overall is poised to do exceptionally well. The global disruption in the sports space has created some obstacles for many athletes, but it has never been more obvious about the power of team, until you face a crisis like we have. I believe the strength of the Bahrain team unit will be even more apparent when we return to racing this season. We will be unstoppable!”
Paratriathlon world champion Lauren Parker has her sights set on gold for triathlon, but also for paracycling as she campaigns for selection in the time trial and road race events. Beyond that, she aims to defend her world title as well as race both the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 world championships.
Dual world champion Vincent Luis wants to add two Olympic gold medals to his resume as part of France’s individual and mixed relay team. Compatriot Beaugrand is also part of the mixed relay world champion line-up that won the Tokyo test event to make them heavy favourites.
Kristian Blummenfelt will also feel that much more prepared for an assault on gold and fellow Rio Olympian Mislawchuk rounds off the new additions to the team as he ramps up to convert his Tokyo test event win into a gold medal.
Most of the team have been preparing out of established training hubs in Europe, Australia and Hawaii. Each athlete has their own training and racing schedule, but Bahrain Endurance provides the support and incentive around this.
He added: “The global pandemic has added an additional stress in preparation and remaining healthy, but the athletes have not wavered from their undeterred ambition to compete against the best and represent Bahrain Endurance 13.
“This is the most prestigious role you can have in being a member of this team, and the ability to plug into the team training assets around the world and train with your team mates has provided a great shield from the difficulties many athletes have faced alone during this pandemic. Bahrain Endurance’s global training hubs provide the basis for our team’s successful preparations and training and this will be even more evident as our team opens up its racing this year.”
Ironman world champions Jan Frodeno and Daniela Ryf once again will lead the team charge in the hunt for major long-course titles, as Frodeno aims for his fourth Kona win and Ryf another world championship double at Ironman 70.3 and Ironman.
Holly Lawrence seeks to add another Ironman 70.3 world crown to her collection alongside winning the regional championships and perhaps her Ironman distance debut.
After the Tokyo Olympics, both Brownlee and Gomez will need to make a quick transition to long-distance fitness to execute their Kona ambitions. Ironman champion David Plese, who completes the Bahrain Endurance 13 team roster, will join them on the starting line.
Chris McCormack, Bahrain Endurance 13 team CEO, added: “Our team continues to be the gold standard for success and is part of Bahrain’s growing involvement in global sport.
“We have seen a huge uptake of sport in Bahrain since 2015 when we first started this team – not just growing interest in swimming, cycling, and running, but also in team sports and other athletic endeavours. We are thankful for Shaikh Nasser’s continued support and his commitment towards driving health and wellness not only in the Gulf region, but worldwide.”
Gilliam and McCormack also hope to someday have a Bahrain athlete on the team.
“We look forward to the time when a Bahrain youngster will be a part of the high-performance team and win a World Championship as a by-product of being inspired by all we have done,” Gilliam said. “We are literally only a few years away from this reality and that is exciting!”