U.S. Athletes Set Record Marks in Tokyo, International Competition in 2021
by USA Triathlon
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The United States put together a record-setting 2021 in international competition spanning the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games and World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) events.
The U.S. led all countries with seven combined Olympic and Paralympic triathlon medals in Tokyo with three gold, three silver and one bronze, and won the Paralympic triathlon medal count with five. With two medals in the Olympics and five medals in the Paralympics, the U.S. improved on its medal count from the Rio 2016 Games by one medal each in both the Olympics and Paralympics.
“Both female and male U.S. athletes reached unprecedented heights across multiple formats and categories, and this is a testament to our incredible athletes, support staff, coaches and the multisport community as a whole,” said John Farra, USA Triathlon High Performance General Manager. “International success by our elite athletes not only helps fuel interest and participation in the sport, but also serves as one of the markers that our high performance athletes and programs are on track and provides the next generation of athletes an important target and objective to work toward.”
The U.S. was one of only two countries to win multiple triathlon medals at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 behind a silver in the Olympic debut for mixed relay and a bronze from Katie Zaferes (Cary, N.C.), and Kevin McDowell (Geneva, Ill.) finished the men’s individual race in sixth place, the highest-ever by a U.S. man.
One of only four countries to qualify three women for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, the U.S. was one of only two countries to place all three athletes in the top-20 with Zaferes in third, Summer Rappaport (Thornton, Colo.) in 14th and Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.) in 16th.
The U.S., which now won the most triathlon medals in Paralympic Games history with nine, took home three triathlon gold medals at the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, the most of any country, and has five total triathlon gold medals across both the Tokyo and Rio Paralympic Games. No other country has won more than two.
Three of the four female two-time Paralympic medalists are U.S. athletes, including Allysa Seely (Glendale, Ariz.), who won gold again in the PTS2 category to become the only female two-time Paralympic gold medalist, Hailey Danz (Colorado Springs, Colo.), a two-time PTS2 silver medalist, and Grace Norman (Jamestown, Ohio), who earned a silver medal in the PTS5 category to go with her 2016 gold medal.
Two athletes made history in their Paralympic triathlon debuts as Kendall Gretsch (Downers Grove, Ill.) won the first women’s triathlon wheelchair race in Paralympic history and became the fifth American to win gold medals at both the summer and winter Paralympic Games, while Brad Snyder (Baltimore, Md.), with guide Greg Billington (San Francisco, Calif.), took home gold in the PTVI category to become the first U.S. man to win a Paralympic or Olympic medal in an individual event in triathlon.
The U.S. also became the first country to finish a WTCS with five women and three men in the top 12 of their respective overall rankings, and the five female athletes ranked in the top 12 are the most by one country in series history.
Knibb and Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.) placed second and third, respectively, in the 2021 WTCS to mark the third time the U.S. has finished the series with two women on the overall podium. Knibb and Spivey join Gwen Jorgensen (Waukesha, Wis.) and Sarah True (Cooperstown, N.Y.), who took gold and bronze in 2015 and gold and silver in 2014. The three years with multiple female podium finishers ties the U.S. with Great Britain for the most in WTCS history.
Two U.S. women have placed in the top four of the overall series standings in seven consecutive years dating back to 2014 (series was not held in 2020 due to COVID-19). Great Britain is the only other country to place two women in the top four in the overall series standings and they have done it three times.
Zaferes, Rappaport and Kristen Kasper (North Andover, Mass.) rounded out the U.S. quintet as they finished in sixth, 11th and 12th, respectively, in the 2021 WTCS standings.
A trio of U.S. men put together the best collective season in the WTCS in the country’s history as all three finished in the top six in a major event this year, including Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.), who finished second and third in Leeds and Yokohama, respectively, Seth Rider (Germantown, Tenn.), who took fourth in the World Triathlon Championship Finals Edmonton, and McDowell, who placed sixth in the Olympics. Rider notched the U.S.’s highest-ever WTCS standing in ninth place and was joined in the top-12 by Pearson in 10th place and McDowell in 12th place to mark the first time two U.S. men have placed in the top 10 and three U.S. men have placed in the top 12.
The U.S. won eight of the 30 total individual medals across the five events that made up the 2021 WTCS, the most of any country and ahead of Great Britain and France, who tied for second with five each. The U.S. women’s five medals were the most of any country on the women’s side led by Knibb’s three medals, who tied Bermuda’s Flora Duffy for both most women’s individual medals and gold medals, as well as silver for Rappaport in Yokohama and a bronze for Spivey in Montreal.
The U.S. led all countries with 12 total medals across the two 2021 World Triathlon Para Series events in Yokohama and Leeds, including eight golds, the most of any country.
The WTCS, which began in 2009, is an annual series of triathlon events held in cities around the world where athletes compete head-to-head for points. The rankings are used to determine the best-performing triathletes of the season and, ultimately, the World Champions.
About Tokyo United
USA Triathlon is promoting its elite athletes in the lead-up to, during and beyond the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games with its Tokyo United campaign. Tokyo United showcases the resilience, determination and teamwork shown by U.S. Olympians and Paralympians, and the communities surrounding them, on their path to the Games. Tokyo United also refers to the common experience shared by the USA Triathlon family over the last year — from amateur athletes, race directors, coaches and clubs whose racing plans were upended, to U.S. Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls whose dreams were deferred — and the many ways we lifted each other up in hopes of a more promising 2021. The three-phased campaign began with United to Tokyo, showcasing each U.S. Olympic and Paralympic triathlon hopeful’s journey from childhood to the biggest stage in sport — along with the family and support systems that helped them along the way. The second phase, United in Tokyo, brought together the entire multisport community and the global Olympic and Paralympic family to support Team USA at the pinnacle of competition, and to revel in the long-awaited Olympic and Paralympic moment. The final phase, United Beyond Tokyo, celebrates the achievements of the 2020 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams before passing the torch to aspiring triathletes with Olympic and Paralympic dreams for the Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 Games.
About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon, paratriathlon, and indoor and virtual multisport events in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,000 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors — as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation — USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including World Triathlon Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of World Triathlon and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).