If there was any doubt that the United States is stacked when it comes to elite women’s Olympic-distance triathlon racing, all the proof came at today’s World Triathlon Championship Series Yokohama where the one American people weren’t talking about taking the win dominated the day and earned herself an automatic berth on the US Olympic squad for Tokyo this summer. Heading into the race all eyes were on the three women who had been on the podium at the last running of the Yokohama race when Katie Zaferes led an all-American podium where she was joined by Summer Rappaport and Taylor Spivey.
Taylor Knibb’s amazing performance really shouldn’t be much of a surprise, though. She was the U23 world champion in 2018 and the year before had become the youngest woman to finish on a podium at a WTS race when she took the silver in Edmonton. On that day she joined Bermuda’s Flora Duffy on a breakaway. Today she used a similar tactic to take her first WTCS win.
Breakaway time on the bike
The race dynamics were set early on in the bike. After American Summer Rappaport came out of the water with Portugal’s Helena Carvalho and The Netherlands’ Maya Kingma, it was Kingma who blasted out on the bike early to get things going. Canada’s Amelie Kretz followed a fantastic swim with some heads-up riding to join the early 15-women breakaway group.
That group was pared down to 13, though, when Knibb moved to the front and started to exert some pressure. A large chase group that included Canada’s Joanna Brown was moving on the leaders, though, and would eventually catch them during the third of eight laps on the bike.
Just as the groups were joining together, though, Knibb and Kingma managed to get away, forming a two-woman breakaway. Kingma would take the lead on the technical sections, Knibb would blast out in front on the straightaways, which made for a lethal combination that saw the pair steadily pull away from the chase group.
By the time the pair hit T2 they were 2:05 up on the huge group that included both Canadians. Kingma flew out onto the run course, but was only able to hold off Knibb for about a km before the young American moved to the front and began to open a gap.
Rappaport managed to split herself from the rest of the chase group and steadily gained time on Kingma, but Knibb was moving well in the lead. At the end of the second lap Knibb’s lead was up to 36 seconds on Kingma and 1:37 on Rappaport, with Spivey leading the chase group 1:50 down. With one lap to go Knibb was still comfortably in front – leading Kingma by a minute, with Rappaport now only 17-seconds behind the Dutchwoman and the chase group 1:30 behind the lead.
Rappaport would power through the last lap of the run to get past Kingma, who would hang on to the American to ensure a spot on the podium. Knibb would take the day in 1:54:27 with Rappaport 30 seconds back in second. Kingma rounded out the podium another eight seconds behind. Spivey took fourth with Austria’s Julia Hauser in fifth.
Brown hangs tough
Both Brown and Kretz arrived in T2 in the chase pack and were very much in the mix starting the run. Kretz pushed hard early and was in fourth place towards the end of the first lap of the run, but would eventually fade to 33rd place. Brown put together a steady paced run and would end up 13th, which should earn her some more valuable Olympic qualifying points – she’s currently 21st in the World Triathlon Individual Olympic Qualification Rankings.
American Olympic qualifying
The first American on the podium was guaranteed a spot at the Olympics, which most felt would come down to either Zaferes or Spivey, who eventually finished fourth. In the end the Olympic qualifying spot went to Knibb.
Rappaport had nailed a spot on the Olympic team thanks to a sixth-place finish at the 2019 Tokyo Test Event, a race where Zaferes crashed and Spivey struggled with stomach issues. Determined to show that her qualification was anything but a fluke, Rappaport arrived in top shape for the race in Yokohama and showed it with her impressive runner-up finish.
According to race announcer Helen Jenkins, Zaferes lost her father about a month ago and was struggling emotionally with the loss. She would eventually finish 22nd. That will make for a tough decision for the American coaches, who will have to pick either her or Spivey as the final athlete on the Olympic team.
You can find results from today’s race here.