Olympic Qualification on the Line at World Triathlon Championship Series Yokohama
by USA Triathlon
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — U.S. Olympic hopeful triathletes will have a chance to punch their tickets to Tokyo at this week’s World Triathlon Championship Series event in Yokohama, Japan, which serves as the second and final auto-qualifier for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team. In addition to the elite race, a World Paratriathlon Championship Series event is also scheduled.
All races are set for Saturday, May 15, in Japan, which is late Friday night, May 14, for most of the United States. All events will be broadcast live at TriathlonLIVE.tv; monthly and annual subscriptions are available for purchase. The races will also be streamed live on FloTrack with a subscription.
The World Paratriathlon Championship Series event kicks off the action at 5:50 p.m. ET on May 14/6:50 a.m. local time on May 15 (the paratriathlon race is not an auto-qualifier for the U.S. Paralympic Team). The elite women follow at 9:16 p.m. ET on May 14/10:16 a.m. local time on May 15, and the elite men are scheduled for 12:06 a.m. ET on May 15/1:06 p.m. local time on May 15.
In Yokohama, elite athletes will cover an Olympic-distance course featuring a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 1-kilometer run centered around Yamashita Park and the Port of Yokohama. Elite paratriathletes will race a sprint-distance course with a 750m swim, 20k bike and 5k run.
The U.S. will send a maximum of three women and three men to the Tokyo Olympic Games for triathlon. Summer Rappaport (Thornton, Colo.) is the only athlete currently qualified for the U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team, by way of her fifth-place finish at the Tokyo ITU Olympic Qualification Event in August 2019.
Because Rappaport is already qualified, only one woman can qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team in Yokohama. Since no men have qualified to date, up to two men can punch their ticket to Tokyo by way of a qualifying performance in Yokohama. After Yokohama, all remaining spots will be selected via discretion by the USA Triathlon Games Athlete Selection Committee.
In Yokohama, athletes can auto-qualify for the U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team in the following scenarios:
- In the women’s race, the first U.S. athlete finishing on the podium, who has not already qualified for the team, will earn automatic selection. (E.g., only one U.S. woman can auto-qualify at this event, and she must be on the podium).
- Because no U.S. men were auto-selected from the 2019 ITU World Olympic Qualification Event, the highest-placed U.S. man finishing within the top-eight overall will be selected to the team.
- Two men may be selected to the team at Yokohama, in the event that both men finish on the podium.
In the days following Yokohama, the USA Triathlon Games Athlete Selection Committee may, but is not required to, issue a limited number of “early discretionary nominations” on or before May 20, 2021. Any remaining slots not filled at one of the two auto-selection events, and not named as “early discretionary nominations,” will be issued via final nomination to the team by the USA Triathlon Games Athletes Selection Committee after June 15, 2021.
Click here for a complete explanation of the qualification process for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Triathlon Teams.
U.S. Athletes to Watch
The U.S. women bring a strong contingent to Yokohama, led by the trio who swept the podium at the 2019 Yokohama race — Katie Zaferes (gold), Rappaport (silver) and Taylor Spivey (bronze).
Headlining the women’s start list is Zaferes (Cary, N.C.), the 2019 World Triathlon champion and 2016 U.S. Olympian. Zaferes had a breakout season in 2019, winning five of eight races in the World Triathlon Series and earning silver in a fifth. She crashed out of the 2019 Tokyo test event, missing her first chance at Olympic auto-qualification, but she went on to capture the world title in Lausanne, Switzerland, two weeks later. Zaferes also reached the overall World Triathlon Series podium in 2018 (silver) and 2017 (bronze).
Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.) holds the No. 2 spot on the start list. She was just off the overall World Triathlon Series podium in 2019, placing fourth in the season-long standings. Spivey led the U.S. women at the 2020 World Triathlon Championship in Hamburg, Germany, with a fourth-place finish.
Rappaport will compete in Yokohama at No. 3 on the start list, though her spot in Tokyo is already secure. The four-time World Triathlon Series medalist and eight-time World Triathlon Cup champion had a comeback season in 2019, placing a career-best fifth in the overall World Triathlon Series standings.
Also set to compete for the U.S. women are Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.) and Tamara Gorman (Rapid City, S.D.), two of only three women in World Triathlon history to have won individual world titles at both the Junior and Under-23 levels. Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.), a nine-time World Cup medalist who placed fourth overall in the 2018 World Triathlon Series, and Renée Tomlin (Ocean City, N.J.), a 10-time World Cup medalist, will also toe the line. Click here for the complete women’s start list.
On the men’s side, Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.) and Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.) are No. 19 and 20 on the start list, respectively. McElroy is a nine-time World Cup medalist who became the first U.S. man in a decade to podium in a World Triathlon Series race in 2019 when he took silver in Leeds, England. Pearson is relatively new to the sport, having made his elite debut in 2018. The two-time World Cup medalist led all U.S. men at the 2020 World Championships in Hamburg, placing eighth.
Chasing a second Olympic appearance is Ben Kanute (Geneva, Ill.), a 2016 U.S. Olympian and two-time World Cup medalist with a career-best World Triathlon Series finish of seventh. Also racing for the U.S. men are Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.), a four-time World Cup medalist and eight-time Continental Cup medalist, and Kevin McDowell (Geneva, Ill.), the 2015 Pan American Games silver medalist and seven-time World Cup medalist. Click here for the complete men’s start list.
U.S. Paratriathletes to Watch
While Yokohama is not an auto-qualifier for the 2020 U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team, the race provides a chance for athletes to earn valuable points toward their Paralympic ranking — which helps the U.S. team earn country quota slots for the Paralympic Games and may factor into discretionary selection for the U.S. Paralympic Team.
In the men’s PTVI category, seven-time world champion Aaron Scheidies (Seattle, Wash.) and his guide, 2016 U.S. Olympian Greg Billington (San Francisco, Calif.), will look to extend Scheidies’ career-long streak, as he has never finished off the podium in a World Triathlon elite paratriathlon race. Fellow Americans Kyle Coon (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and guide Zack Goodman (Salisbury, Md.) will challenge for the podium.
Kendall Gretsch (Downers Grove, Ill.) will be chasing hardware in the women’s PTWC division. Gretsch is a three-time World Paratriathlon Champion who was undefeated in elite international competition for nearly 4 1/2 years, from 2014 to mid-2018. Gretsch also competes in Nordic skiing and recently transitioned back to paratriathlon after wrapping up her winter ski season.
Melissa Stockwell (Colorado Springs, Colo.), a U.S. Army veteran, 2016 Paralympic bronze medalist and three-time world champion, will race in the women’s PTS2 category.
Jamie Brown (Oceanside, Calif.) and U.S. Army veteran Kelly Elmlinger (San Antonio, Texas) are on the hunt for medals in the men’s and women’s PTS4 divisions, respectively. Brown is a three-time World Championships bronze medalist, and Elmlinger is a four-time World Cup medalist and 2019 World Championships runner-up.
Also set to compete in Yokohama are U.S. Army veteran and 2017 national champion Howie Sanborn (Denver, Colo., PTWC), and three-time World Cup medalist Adam Popp (Arlington, Va., PTS2).
Click here for all paratriathlon start lists.
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. To engage with the Tokyo United campaign and cheer on USA Triathlon's Tokyo hopefuls as they chase their Olympic and Paralympic dreams, use #TokyoUnited on social media and follow @usatriathlon on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok. To learn more about USA Triathlon's road to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, visit usatriathlon.org/tokyo2020.
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).