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All eyes on Taylor Knibb as 70.3 world champ returns to draft-legal racing in Yokohama

American star returns to racing after surgery for a stress fracture in January

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

This weekend’s World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) event in Yokohama is the first of a pair of back-to-back Olympic-distance races for the series – the event in Cagliari in a couple of weeks will also feature the 1.5 km swim/ 40 km bike/ 10 km run format. That’s good news for the Ironman 70.3 world champion Taylor Knibb as she returns to racing after undergoing surgery in January. The American had a screw inserted into her fifth metatarsal thanks to a stress fracture that wouldn’t heal.Just like Olympic gold medalist Kristian Blummenfelt, Knibb has shown a remarkable capability to excel over both half-distance and draft-legal racing, making her one of the sport’s most popular figures.

Is Taylor Knibb triathlon’s “it” girl? You bet

Knibb won in Yokohama in 2021, nailing her spot on the American Olympic team for Tokyo. It turned out to be a magical year that saw her take Olympic silver as part of the mixed relay squad, dominate the Collins Cup and take third at the 70.3 worlds. While much of 2022 was spent dealing with the pesky stress fracture, she did manage the 70.3 worlds win along with podium finishes at WTCS Cagliari and Bermuda, along with a fourth-place finish at the Championship Finals in Abu Dhabi.

This is a return to racing, though, and when it comes to WTCS racing, there’s no room for error. Knibb will be hard pressed to take a second win in Yokohama, even though some of the biggest names in draft-legal racing won’t be in Japan. Olympic and defending world champion Flora Duffy is still dealing with an injury and won’t be racing, and Beth Potter, the winner of the first race in the WTCS series this year in Abu Dhabi, is also taking a pass in order to focus on the race in Cagliari. That puts Great Britain’s Sophie Coldwell, the runner-up in Abu Dhabi, as the top seed this weekend, but there’s lots of women in the field with realistic podium aspirations.

Olympic and Commonwealth Games silver medalist Georgia Taylor-Brown will look to improve on her uncharacteristic 15th-place finish from Abu Dhabi. Americans Summer Rappaport and Taylor Spivey wear race #s two and three for the race after their third- and fourth-place finishes in Abu Dhabi. France’s Emma Lombardi has been on a steady run towards an Olympic spot next year, and two-time Olympian Laura Lindemann from Germany could also factor into the podium mix, as could the Netherlands’ Maya Kingma, who was third in Yokohama in 2021 after breaking away with Knibb on the bike, then took WTCS Leeds a few weeks later.

The large American contingent also includes Kirsten Kaspar and Erika Ackerlund, while Canada will be represented by two-time Olympian Amelie Kretz and Emy Legault.

You can see the full start list here.

The race will be televised live on TriathlonLive TV starting at 8:46 PM Friday, May 12.