Morrison leads rising Irish in assault on world's giants
YOU don't have to be some kind of an Amazon to excel at triathlon, as demonstrated by Chile's world-leading woman Barbara Riveros Diaz, who stands just 5' 1" tall and weighs little more than seven and a half stone!
But you do need to be a real endurance beast, and many of the world's finest exponents are in Ireland this weekend.
In just its fifth year, triAthlone 2010, which starts in Connacht (with a Shannon swim) and finishes in Leinster on the town's medieval streets, has scored a massive coup by also doubling up as the 2010 European Championships.
Tomorrow's elite senior men's race (3.30 start) includes Britain's reigning world champion Alistair Brownlee, Spain's reigning European champion Javier Gomez and Russia's world No 1 Alexander Brukhankov, as well as Brownlee's younger brother Jonathan, the European junior champion and World junior silver medallist.
Today's women's equivalent (3.30) features reigning European champion Nicola Spirig and her highly-rated Swiss team-mate Daniela Ryf, Sweden's Lisa Norden (ranked third in the world last year), reigning world junior champ Emmie Charayron (France) and Luxembourg's Elizabeth May and Portugal's Vanessa Fernandes, who took second and third respectively in Athlone last year.
The home challenge should also be strong. Top-ranked Corkman Bryan Keane has been training in Loughborough with the British team and finished 20th in his last race, the world-class Hy-Vee in Indiana.
Keane won in Athlone last year and usually comes through strong after the final transition.
Enniskillen's Gavin Noble, who just missed qualification for the Beijing Olympics and was fifth in Athlone last year, is Ireland's other top man.
Emma Davis was Ireland's first Olympian triathlete in 2008 and was second in Athlone that year but Derry's Aileen Morrison is this country's rising women's star.
She is No 29 in the world on the all-important 2012 Olympic qualification rankings, on which Keane is at No 40.
Two more rising Irish to watch for are James Lock and Kerry Spearing. The latter was born in Lisburn before her family emigrated to Canada but she recently switched her international allegiance back to Ireland.
A whopping 4,000-plus competitors will take part over the weekend in different categories like the 'try-a-tri' or 'open sprint' (750m swim, 20km cycle, 5km run), but the elite internationals compete at the Olympic distances (1500m swim, 40km bike and 10km) and start with the juniors each day, at 1.30.
Highlights, RTE 2, tomorrow, 8.0.