Taylor Knibb has been setting up this race scenario for years – as a junior I watched her bike and run away from the rest of the field at the Pan American Junior Championship in Monterey, Mexico. Today she did the same thing – the difference being, though, that today she was up against the best female triathletes in the world.
Knibb was pretty much unstoppable today, making her mark through the second lap of the swim and leading the women out of the water with Brazil’s Vittoria Lopes, Australia’s Natalie Van Coevorden, American Taylor Spivey, the Netherlands’ Maya Kingma and Germany’s Laura Lindemann close behind. Olympic champion Flora Duffy didn’t seem to be in quite as much control as she was a week ago in Montreal (or in Tokyo, for that matter), coming out of the water in 10th spot.
Once on the bike Knibb started her charge virtually from her first pedal stroke, By the end of the first lap she was already 25 seconds up on a huge group that included (amongst others) Duffy, Spivey, Kingma, Americans Kirstan Kasper and Katie Zaferes, Lopes, Lindemann, Great Britain’s Sophie Coldwell, Van Coevorden and France’s Leonie Periault.
By the time the technical, hilly bike was done Knibb was 2:44 up on the group and started out the run looking strong and ready to maintain her lead.
Which she did. Duffy pushed hard on the first loop of the run and found herself with a shadow – Periault looked simply fantastic as she marked the Olympic gold-medalist’s move. It soon became apparent that Knibb was not going to be caught and, just over halfway through the run Periault started to pull clear from Duffy. Behind them the battle for fourth was becoming really interesting with a group of Spivey, Kingma, Coldwell and Linemann managing to open up a bit of a gap on Zaferes.
Knibb would maintain her lead all the way to the line, taking the win in 1:54:47. Periault obviously peaked perfectly for the day, taking second in 1:55:43, 56 seconds back. Duffy would hang on for third in 1:56:11, 1:24 behind, but had to stay sharp because Zaferes found another gear in the last lap and ran her way through the group to take fourth in 1:56:14, just three second behind Duffy. Spivey would take fifth (1:56:16), while Kingma took sixth in 1:56:23.
Duffy’s third place finish was more than enough to net her the world title, which means she’s the first athlete to every win the Olympics and the world championships in the same year. Knibb’s big win was enough to move her to second in the standings, while Spivey would end up third.