Gomez and Stimpson seeking Abu Dhabi redemption

He’ll be going up against compatriot, friend and protege in Abu Dhabi this weekend, but Javier Gomez insists he’s back to take his ITU World Triathlon Series Mario Mola after being dethroned in 2016.

Matt Jones
by Matt Jones
1st March 2017

article:1st March 2017

Javier Gomez.
Javier Gomez.

The 33-year-old Spaniard is a record five-time World Triathlon Series champion and he won three successive series’ between 2013-15.

However, he was usurped as king by young pretender Mola, 27, a year ago, a season on which decorated Gomez does not look back fondly.

Besides being denied a fourth title in a row, the Galicia native also missed out on last summer’s Olympics when he broke his elbow just over a month before the Rio Games.

Although many would have been left broken, especially as Gomez was one of the favourites for triathlon gold in Brazil after winning silver at London 2012, the veteran admits it gave him some perspective.

“It was really frustrating. It was just a normal training day and 300 metres from my house and I fell off the bike. I was going very slow, it didn’t seem to be a bad crash but I had the ground with my elbow and I broke it and there was no time to recover for the Olympics,” recalled Swiss-born Gomez.

“It was sad but a few days later I accepted it. It’s part of the sport when you do it for so many years. I had a great time and some great success but it was just one of those times I wasn’t successful and I had to recover and get back stronger than before. I tried to deal with it that way.

“I’ve won so many titles and big races so it gave me some perspective of things. It was not a great situation but it’s part of life and sport and you have to deal with it. I’ve had setbacks in the past and the fact I overcame them made me a better athlete and stronger so I’ll take this last one the same.”

Gomez is one of the leading elite male contenders for the season-opening World Triathlon Series race in Abu Dhabi, with the men racing on Saturday around the new location of Yas Island, but Gomez insists Mola is the man to beat.

“I was happy for him being world champion. He was on the podium for three years before finally stepping up to first spot, so he deserved it,” Gomez said of his younger opponent, who was third behind Gomez in 2013 and runner-up twice to him in 2014 and 2015.

“I’m good friends with him but of course when I’m racing against him I’m trying to beat him and he’s the world champion so he’s the one to beat at this race, and I’ll try my best to do so.”

Jodie Stimpson, meanwhile, feels this year’s elite women’s series will be one of the most widely contested in recent memory, but the Briton is determined to claim victory after a “devastating” 2016.

Jodie Simpson.

Jodie Simpson.

The 28-year-old double 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medalist has fond memories of Abu Dhabi, having claimed victory in the UAE at the same event a year ago.

However, after such a promising start, her 2016 season then went into a tailspin, losing out on selection to the British triathlon team for last summer’s Olympic Games to Non Stanford, Helen Jenkins and Vicky Holland, before an Achilles injury then ended her campaign.

She’s back at the scene of what turned out to be her sole 2016 highlight this season as 2017 opens with the ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi tomorrow.

And Stimpson is determined to put her year of hell firmly behind her.

“Missing Rio was absolutely devastating and I was driven then to prove a point,” admitted Stimpson.

“It gave me motivation to finish the season well, but then I had a devastating injury. I don’t think everything else could have gone wrong.

“That was the worst thing, missing Rio when I was so close to it. But I did all I could do, I have no regrets, I just wasn’t good enough. I think that’s why it was easier to come away from it. I did my best and just didn’t make it.”

Stimpson has a perfect opportunity to start the season on the right foot in the UAE capital. Reigning series champion Flora Duffy pulled out of the season opener on Tuesday with a hip injury, while several opponents are taking a season off to start a family.

One of those is American Gwen Jorgensen, who was back to back series champion in 2014 and 2015 and also won gold in Rio.