He’s a double WTS world champion and one of the finest physical specimens among triathlon’s elite ranks. But, having endured crushing Olympic pain at the Tokyo Games, will Vincent Luis, the flying Frenchman, ever get an individual Olympic medal around his neck?
Who is Vincent Luis?
Born in eastern France close to the border with Germany, Vincent Luis is the country’s most successful triathlete, having twice won the ITU World Triathlon Series world title.
Always one of the first out of the water, he is also a formidable runner, his muscular physique ensuring that he’s rarely – if ever – outgunned in a sprint finish.
His WTS career advanced at a steady – if not rapid – pace as Luis developed the skill to perform consistently no matter the city, the course or the conditions.
His first WTS win came in Hamburg in 2015 (the series in which he came third overall), but a follow-up victory was 26 months in the waiting when he won in Rotterdam in 2017. After taking second overall in 2018, he went one better the following year.
Such was the standard across the elite group, with wins being shared out among the pack, that although he’d only climbed on the podium twice the whole season, Luis had done enough to wrench the WTS crown from Mario Mola’s long-held grasp.
He retained his title in 2020 in a single-race shoot-out in Hamburg. Luis has also enjoyed great success in the Super League Triathlon Championshipwinning in both 2018 and 2019.
His Olympic career has been less stellar. Eleventh in London in 2012 and seventh in 2016, by the time the postponed Tokyo Games came around in 2021, Luis was arguably the favorite to take the gold. But a slight calf problem did for him and he trailed in in the 13th place.
A bronze in the mixed relay (an event in which he’s won world titles) was scant compensation. That season, one in which he also failed to retain his WTS crown, was chronicled at close quarters in the documentary series Invincible. Sadly for Luis, the title turned out not to be true.
How old is Vincent Luis?
Vincent Luis was born on 27 June 1989, making him 32 years old.
Vincent Luis’s career highlights
June 2008: A month to remember with double junior titles
In a portent of what shape his elite career might take, Luis grabs the junior world championship title in Vancouver three weeks before his 19th birthday. A month earlier, he’d already been crowned junior European champion in Lisbon.
August 2010: His first significant elite victory
At a European Cup race in Geneva, Luis calmly exerts his authority on the field as he takes his first elite win.
August 2012: Luis climbs onto a WTS podium for the first time
Fewer than three weeks after coming 11th at the London Olympics, Luis takes his first top-three placing in a WTS race in Stockholm. That the only men who beat him are Jonny Brownlee and Javier Gómez is a clear indication of the level Luis is arriving at. The following day, he takes silver as his French team are beaten by Britain in the mixed relay world champs.
July 2015: A weekend of double success in Hamburg
The French take first place in the mixed relay world championships in Hamburg. It’s Luis’s second success in as many days. The previous day, having been runner-up in 2014 in the German city in a sprint-distance race, Luis goes one better to take his maiden WTS gold, holding off Gómez and Mario Mola.
Plenty of podium finishes across the series means that the Frenchman takes third place overall behind the Spanish double act.
September 2017: A delayed second taste of WTS gold
It’s more than two years before Luis climbs to the top of an WTS podium again, this time taking the win at the Grand Final in Rotterdam.
September 2018: Highest WTS overall placing so far
After a couple of middling, misfiring WTS seasons since that overall bronze in 2015, another Grand Final victory, this time on the Gold Coast, earns Luis a series silver behind Mola, who takes his third consecutive crown.
August 2019: Luis sits on top of the world
Such is the wide-open field in this season’s WTS series that no one athlete remotely dominates proceedings, with the old guard (Gómez, Mola, Brownlee) coming up against the young blades (Alex Mee, Gustav Iden, Kristian Blummenfelt…).
Indeed, so even is the field that Australia’s Jacob Birtwhistle is the only man to win more than one race. Thus, despite only winning in Yokohama and fifth coming at the Grand Final in Lausanne (as well as registering only one other WTS podium finish all season – second place at Hamburg), Luis takes his first WTS title.
September 2020: The French king repeats the coronation
Because of the pandemic, the world championships are held over a single, solitary sprint race in Hamburg.
This is happy hunting-ground – and a happy hunting distance – for Luis and, despite the extended field of 65 athletes, he comfortably retains his title, forming a three-man break with his compatriot Léo Bergere and Portugal’s Vasco Vilaca before kicking for home with 800 metres left.
Luis runs four races this season; he wins all four.
July 2021: Luis’s Olympic dreams lie shattered on the floor
Despite his excellent 2020 form that sees him the favorite for the men’s gold, an ongoing calf injury puts paid to individual ambition as Luis trails on 13th at the delayed Tokyo Games in July 2021.
Although The French team takes bronze in the mixed relay, that too is a disappointment as France were heavily predicted to take gold.
December 2021: Luis makes a dramatic 70.3 debut
In his first middle-distance outing at 70.3 Indian Wells, Luis was in the lead until a mis-direction by a marshal led him into the path of a moving vehicle. Luckily he was able to continue and take second place behind Lionel Sanders.
Vincent Luis in quotes
On being the favorite going into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics: “I feel less pressure than before … I competed at the Games twice already and I realised that it’s a race just like other races.”
On finishing a disappointed 13th in Tokyo: “I was not at the level for an Olympic medal … [with] the Olympics, there is a date. You have to be ready. I was not.”
On Super League: “Super League to me is the future. It is the next step for triathlon. At home, people now recognise me in the street because it was live on French TV and people watched it every day.”
What’s next for Vincent Luis?
Retaining his WTS title – and becoming one of the few to win it three times – is a primary target, as is Super League success. The long-term goal, though, has to be exorcising those Olympic nightmares by triumphing at his home Games in Paris 2024, when he’ll have reached the grand old age of 35.
Top image: Credit: Jörg Schüler/Getty Images