With a dominant performance, American Katie Zaferes claims a hat trick in the 2019 World Triathlon Yokohama, with teammates Summer Rappaport and Taylor Spivey accompanying her in the podium in the fourth podium sweep for USA in the history of WTS.
On a beautiful morning in Yokohama, the race started to unfold right when the elite women were taking their positions in the pontoon, with Katie Zaferes, wearing the golden number 1 swim cap, going to the left and the Brits and the other Americans heading to the right side. By when the triathletes made it to the first buoy there was a long line of them, with Jessica Learmonth leading.
The 1500 swim in the choppy water in Yokohama ended up with Learmonth leading out of the swim, followed closely by Maya Kingma (NED), Spivey and Zaferes. But as soon as the leading females were in transition, they were joined by Yuko Takahashi (JPN), Summer Rappaport (USA) and Lotte Miller (NOR) and the seven of them started to work immediately on building up a lead enough to guarantee them a safe position at the end of the race.
By the third of the 9 laps of the technical and flat bike course, the seven leaders had managed to gain almost 30 seconds over the large group of chasers. Behind them, Non Stanford (GBR), Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR), Emma Jeffcoat (AUS), Natalie Van Coerden (AUS), Alice Betto (ITA) and Tamara Gorman (USA) tried to organise themselves to chase them, but the leading athletes seemed well organised and the efforts of the chasers were in vain. By the time the 40km on the bike were over, the seven female leaders had almost one minute, and new that the fight for the medals was going to be on them.
As soon as the athletes got on their running shoes, Katie Zaferes proved that she is indeed the one to beat this season, and charged hard in the first meters, only to be followed by her teammate Rappaport. The American duo dropped quickly Miller, Kingma and Learmonth first, and then Spivey and Takahashi, who kept running shoulder on the shoulder for the most part of the 10km run.
Kilometre after kilometre, both duos were testing each other, with Zaferes looking cautiously left and right knowing than Rappaport has a really strong run, while Spivey did the same thing with Takahashi, cheered by the thousands of local spectators gathered in Yokohama since very early in the morning.
Zaferes wait until the last 500 meters to do the final push, and without looking back added an extra gear enough to cross the finish line in first place, getting her first ever victory in Yokohama. Behind her, almost crying, Rappaport, and both of them waited smiling for the third American to cross the finish line, Spivey, who had managed to drop Takahashi also in the last meters of the run.
The clean podium sweep in Yokohama marks the fourth for USA team, with the bars and stripes filling all the steps on the podium also in London, Gold Coast and Edmonton, and with Zaferes being in the podium in all four of them.
Takahashi, extremely happy with her fourth place, claimed the best place for a Japanese athlete in Yokohama in the last years, while Taylor-Brown, after a fantastic run, finished in 5th place, followed by her teammate Learmonth in 6th and Maya Kingma in 7th, her best result ever on a WTS.
“It was definitely a different race than the last couple of ones in Abu Dhabi and Bermuda, and Summer pushed me on the run the whole entire time. In the bike, we did a great job. We had a committed group again. It’s just pushing every single lap of the race and committing to each one. Just trying to get more time on the other ones. And then on the run I tried to be more tactical with little pushes and that last lap, I just really pushed the hill, I got a break but decided to keep pushing because I didn’t know if she was coming up behind me”, she said.
After finishing in a bitter sweet second place overall in the Series in 2018, the 2019 season couldn’t have started better for the American, with a hat-trike on her bag and leading the rankings by more than 500 points over Jessica Learmonth. “Every time I think this has got to end sometime, but I go for it each time. I am using a more risky mindset where I am just trying different things and I think it makes it more fun and it’s going well,” she explained.
Rappaport couldn’t hold the tears after crossing the finish line to get her second WTS podium on her career. “I had a really difficult 2018 and then my first WTS in Abu Dhabi didn’t go as I hoped. I have been working hard, I took a lot of gains but just wasn’t able to transfer it into my racing. Today I was able to work with myself and make everything work. I feel like I have been doing my best training for a while but I just couldn’t put it together and it was so difficult and discouraging. Today I felt like my work just finally came through. You have no idea how much I have prepared and trained for improving my bike skills. It wasn’t necessarily that I couldn’t do it, I had to focus on issues where I couldn’t get myself to hold in on race situations. Today I was able to figure it out and perform the way I am able to train,” she said.
The third American, Taylor Spivey, fought during almost the 10km run with her training partner Yuko Takahashi, who she could only leave slightly behind in the last meters of the race. “I wouldn’t say it was a battle with Yuko. I train with her every day and I was so happy to see her in podium contention. I just wanted the best for her. We worked together, I told her to sit on my hip and she did and I am so proud of her”, she said.
Results: 2019 ITU World Triathlon Yokohama : Elite Women
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