Cramps derail Tyler Mislawchuk’s medal hopes in men’s triathlon at Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO — Canada’s strategy of having Matthew Sharpe serve as Tyler Mislawchuk’s domestique in the first two segments of the men’s triathlon worked flawlessly at the Tokyo Olympics.

But there’s no planning for a cramp.

Mislawchuk finished 15th in one hour 46 minutes 28 seconds at the event along scenic Tokyo Bay on Monday morning, repeating his final position from the Rio Games. Sharpe was 49th in 1:57.32.

“You just can’t control some things. We controlled everything we could and it just wasn’t there,” said Mislawchuk, still doubled over as he recovered from the race. “You can’t have anything go wrong at the Olympics if you want to win.

“You sure as heck can’t have cramping.”

Mislawchuk, from Oak Bluff, Man., had also finished 15th at the Rio Games. But Canadian team officials had hopes for a podium finish heading into these Olympics after Mislawchuk won the test event at Odaiba Marine Park in 1:49:51 two years ago.

Although Mislawchuk actually improved on his time from the test event by nearly three and a half minutes Monday, it wasn’t enough against the world’s best.

“I’m not going to sugar-coat it, it’s just super disappointing,” said Mislawchuk. “Disappointing for myself, my coach, my training partners, everyone who’s helped me along the past 10 years of this journey.

“I came here to win and to be honest anything else would have been disappointing but this is just gut-wrenching.”

Mislawchuk was ninth coming out of the water in 17:50, just 11 seconds off the lead. Sharpe was six seconds behind his teammate after the 1.5-kilometre swim.

The Canadians excelled on the bikes, with Sharpe setting the pace for his partner, allowing Mislawchuk to draft behind him for most of the 40-kilometre segment. The pair was at the head of the pack for most of the cycling, with Sharpe holding down second at the 30-kilometre mark and Mislawchuk peaking at fifth.

“My job was just to keep (Mislawchuk) out of trouble on the swim and bike,” said Sharpe. “Unfortunately the swim just wasn’t what I wanted, got caught up in the beginning in a bad position, found him on the bike and went to the front and just tried to keep him out of trouble as much as possible.”

But both Canadians fell back into the pack before the second transition, with Sharpe later saying he was absolutely spent. Mislawchuk added things got worse after the first kilometre of the 10-kilometre run as his body began to falter.

“Just got some paralyzing cramping,” said Mislawchuk. “I had cramping in a few different spots and when you have that it just paralyzes you.”

Having done his job, Sharpe said he was happy to just cross the checkered line. He finished last after two other competitors dropped out in the 51-man race.

“My goal was to literally finish,” said Sharpe. “I was going to walk if that was going to be the case.

“Disappointed we couldn’t get the job done today but that wasn’t from a lack of effort or a lack of sacrifices. Some days it just doesn’t happen.”

Joanna Brown of Carp, Ont., and Amelie Kretz of Blainville, Que., will race in the women’s triathlon Tuesday morning.

All four Canadians will compete in Saturday’s mixed relay race.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2021.

John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press

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