By Jack Tarrant
TOKYO (Reuters) - Canada's Tyler Mislawchuk prevailed in a 'battle of nutrition' in sticky, humid conditions on Friday to win Tokyo’s International Triathlon Union (ITU) Olympic qualifying race, which also doubled as a Tokyo 2020 test event.
A day after the women's race had to be shortened over heat concerns, the men's event went ahead at the venue for next year's Olympics in slightly cooler conditions, aided by gray skies.
Mislawchuk outsprinted Hayden Wilde of New Zealand and Norway's Casper Stornes in the final stages to secure the victory for what he described as "biggest moment of my sporting career".
Mislawchuk, who finished 15th at the Rio 2016 Games, won in a relatively slow time of 1:49:50 as the triathletes battled with the humidity.
"I knew I was ready for the heat but I wasn't ready for the humidity so I just had to keep on going and keep cool, keep that body temperature cool with a bit of ice and water down the back," Wilde, who finished third, told Reuters.
"It was kind of a survival of nutrition out there, instead of how fast you can go because at the end of the day it was so hot that it wasn’t going to be a fast race," said the New Zealander.
Two-time Olympic medalist Jonathan Brownlee echoed these sentiments and promised to be more aggressive at the Games next year following a fifth-placed finish on Friday.
"It was really, really tough racing," said the Briton, whose brother Alistair didn't compete.
"I think for me personally, it was quite an important race, just to get through a race in the heat."
"I was very, very conservative today; I just wanted a good, solid race to prove to myself I can race in these conditions and to come back next year and be far more aggressive and actually race this time."
"For me, today was about getting through it."
Following the marathon swimming test event at the same venue last weekend, questions have been asked over the water quality at the Odaiba Marine Park.
However, the ITU ruled the water quality good enough for competition and the recorded water temperature on Friday was 29.3 degrees Celsius, below the governing body’s threshold of 30.9.
"The water was fine. There has been a lot of talk about the water quality but I have swam in much worse. It is very, very good," said Brownlee.
"We have trained in a lot hotter. When I was a young kid in the swimming pools of Leeds we trained in a lot hotter water than that so it was fine."
As for Mislawchuk, who became the first Canadian male to secure a World Triathlon Series (WTS) podium, he believes good preparation and a natural aptitude for dealing with the heat contributed to his maiden victory.
He will be one to watch at the Olympics next year.
"I am in the fortunate position that I do really well in the heat, without preparation and obviously even better with preparation," he explained.
"It goes the other way; I don’t do too well in the cold as I am a lean guy, a small guy."
"Everyone wants to win a race like that so, a year out from the Olympics, that is great but it also puts a target on my back for next year obviously."
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)