The triathlon races to Paris: where Team USA stand

10 May, 2024 | español

The triathlon races to Paris: where Team USA stand

The Olympic Qualification window has entered its closing stages, with less than two months to go, and plenty is left to be decided. For most countries, the final composition of their Olympic triathlon teams remains up in the air. In several cases, national selectors are weighing up the claims of one athlete against another while in others some are awaiting the final allocation of Olympic places to work out who should receive the coveted slots.

One of the most competitive races in play is that of the American team. Having come home with Olympic gold (women’s race, 2016), Olympic silver (Mixed Team Relay, 2020) and Olympic bronze (women’s race, 2020) from the past two Games, Team USA have established a level of achievement that they will look to maintain in Paris. Deciding on who will fly the flag this summer is no easy task, though. Among both the men’s and women’s squads, there is a chance that a WTCS medallist or Olympic medallist could be left at home.

Who is on the team?

Taylor Knibb and Morgan Pearson booked their places with top-8 finishes at the Paris Test Event last summer. Both were part of the relay that won silver in Tokyo and have won WTCS medals since the last Games. Knibb memorably won the WTCS Final in Edmonton in 2021 before adding subsequent medals in both 2022 and 2023. Pearson likewise performed well at a WTCS Final. In 2022 he stormed to the silver medal in Abu Dhabi.

What is required to qualify?

As things stand, the expectation is that there are two further women’s spots to be filled and one on the men’s side. A podium finish at WTCS Yokohama will be enough to put one further female and male athlete on the team. Thereafter it becomes discretionary selection, so one of the women’s slots will be discretionary. Should no one make the podium in Yokohama, all of the remaining slots will fall under the discretion of the national selectors.

Which women are the mix?

The American women’s race to Paris is one of the most intense in the world. Any of five WTCS medallists (including two former world champions) could claim the remaining two slots.

Taylor Spivey won two WTCS medals last season – in Abu Dhabi and Cagliari – and has been a consistent force at the front of the field for the entire Olympic cycle. Moreover, she proved her chops in the relay with a sterling performance at the World Mixed Team Relay Championships in Hamburg last summer.

Summer Rappaport also won a WTCS medal in 2023. She memorably took the bronze in Montreal after breaking clear with her compatriot Knibb, making her return to the WTCS podium for the first time since 2021.

Katie Zaferes finished 5th at the same race in Montreal and has also visited World Cup podiums since making her comeback from a maternity break. The world champion in 2019 and the Olympic bronze medallist in Tokyo, Zaferes brings a wealth of experience and has already opened her season with a silver medal at the Hong Kong World Cup. She was also a part of the relay that won silver in Tokyo, highlighting what she could bring to the team event.

Finishing right behind her in Hong Kong was Kirsten Kasper. Yet another WTCS medallist, Kasper has been a reliable force for Team USA over the years. Finishes of 6th and 8th at WTCS Cagliari and Yokohama, respectively, in 2023 proved that she could punch her Olympic ticket. Like Spivey, she missed out on Olympic selection in Tokyo behind Knibb, Rappaport and Zaferes and will look to make it this time round.

Then there is Gwen Jorgensen. The former Olympic and world champion won four World Cup events in 2023 and opened her account for 2024 with a bronze medal at the indoor World Cup in Lievin. Qualifying for the relay has been her stated aim since returning to the sport, and few would bet against her making that a reality.

Such is the depth of the American team, some of the contenders will likely not get to start at the final selection race in Yokohama due to nationality quotas. As things stand, though, the women’s race could go in any number of directions.

Which men are in the mix?

Kevin McDowell helped the American relay to silver in Tokyo and made his return to racing after an injury absence at the Hong Kong World Cup. However, if he is to make it to Paris this summer, he will have two clear obstacles to overcome.

WTCS medallist and World Cup winner Matthew McElroy is a favourite to qualify for the team. He is the highest ranked American man in the Olympic Qualification rankings and finished 8th at WTCS Abu Dhabi last season.

Another name to consider is Seth Rider. Rider was part of the relay (alongside McElroy, Spivey and Rappaport) that finished 4th in Hamburg last summer and has become a significant part of the team. He is actually ahead of Morgan Pearson in the Olympic rankings, although Pearson’s Test Event performance has seen him leap-frog his domestic rivals onto the Paris start.

Additional candidates such as Darr Smith and Chase McQueen could also come into contention over the coming weeks. Considering the depth of talent involved, whoever makes the American team will have certainly done it the hard way.

Watch the decisive races on TriathlonLive and stay abreast with all the latest updates across the World Triathlon channels.


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