Thanks to her win at last year’s Ironman 70.3 World Championship, Taylor Knibb had earned herself a spot on the start line in Kona this October. After qualifying for the Olympics at the Paris Test Event, Knibb went on to win a second consecutive 70.3 world title in Lahti, Finland last month. Add to that her impressive win at the PTO US Open at the beginning of August and it comes as no surprise that Knibb won the PTO Athlete of the Month award for August, even though it came down to a close vote.
Others in the running for the award included PTO US Open men’s winner Jan Frodeno, PTO Asian Open winner Kristian Blummenfelt, men’s 70.3 world champ Rico Bogen, Asian Open champ Ashleigh Gentle and Imogen Simmonds.
“I’m honoured and I heard that I won by a tiny point,” Knibb said of the award. “So I’m grateful for that and it shows the depth of racing in August. That’s probably the biggest thing because you look at all the athletes nominated and in any other month anyone could win. August was a stacked month because you had two PTO Tour races and the 70.3 Worlds and the Paris Qualification race. So August was a huge month for triathlon.”
So, too, is October, and there’s lots of anticipation that Knibb might be on the start line for her first Ironman race on the Big Island. While Knibb has remained tight lipped about her plans, a look at the Pontevedra start list gives a bit of a hint that she might end up racing in Kona – Knibb’s name isn’t one of the six Americans on the list, while 2016 Olympic gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen is on the list. (A podium finish will earn one of the six women an automatic Olympic spot.)
When asked what the rest of her season looks like, Knibb didn’t provide any insights:
“I don’t fully know because I’m just taking it each day as it comes,” she told the PTO’s Anthony Scammell. “August was a big month for me. The Olympic qualification was a focus, so was 70.3 worlds. So there are things that I kind of want to do, but realizing that Paris is next year, I need to make sure I’m in a good enough position to do those things or not. I could be done tomorrow with my season…I could have another two months left because I want to go to the Pan Am games in November…and what happens in between there I’m not sure. You can look at a month and then you see the highs and with the highs come little lows and there’s a lull for me right now. So I’m not sure, which is not the answer you want, but I’m figuring things out.”
It isn’t the answer triathlon fans want, but it only adds to the anticipation for the upcoming worlds in Kona. Knibb would certainly be a game changing factor in the race. She could likely be at, or near, the front of the swim along with the likes of Lucy Charles-Barclay and Rachel Zilinskas. She’s ridden away from some of the sport’s premier cyclists in the past, and certainly has the speed to put together a fast run.
All of that said, it seems a bit of a stretch that we’ll see Knibb on the start line in Kona this year. With her focus on Paris, a long-distance debut in October seems unlikely. Even Kristian Blummenfelt, the man who has pioneered this back-and-forth trend between deaft-legal and Ironman racing, figured he needed to skip the Ironman World Championship in Nice this year to fully prepare for Paris. Knibb had surgery in her foot last year, too – taking the chance of getting injured competing in a full-distance race seems unlikely.
Even if we don’t see Knibb on the start line in Kona next month, it’s just a matter of time before we will get to see her compete there. Her mother, Leslie, has competed at the Ironman World Championship six times (five times in Kona and also at the 2022 event in St. George), finishing on the podium twice. So, it’s easy to say that triathlon, and Ironman racing, has long been a part of Knibb’s life. We’ll see her race in Kona. It just might not be this year.