Katie Zaferes and Kevin McDowell to join Rappaport, Knibb, and Pearson in Tokyo

USA TRIATHLON ANNOUNCES 2020 U.S. OLYMPIC TRIATHLON TEAM

From USA Triathlon

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — USA Triathlon today announced its 2020 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team, comprised of the five athletes who will represent the United States in triathlon competition at this summer’s Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Kevin McDowell (Geneva, Ill.) and Katie Zaferes (Cary, N.C.) were newly announced to the roster, joining Summer Rappaport (Thornton, Colo.), Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.) and Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.), who were already qualified. 

The five members of the Tokyo-bound team have a wealth of experience and success on the international race circuit, with a combined 32 World Triathlon Championship Series medals, 30 World Triathlon Cup medals and 12 World Triathlon Mixed Relay Series medals between them.

“Our athletes, like Olympic hopefuls across the world, had to put their dreams on hold when COVID-19 caused the postponement of the Tokyo Games to 2021. The perseverance they have shown during a time of so much uncertainty and change has been amazing to witness,” said Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon CEO. “We have multiple athletes capable of podium performances in the individual events in Tokyo. We will also see the Triathlon Mixed Relay — an action-packed race that brings a team atmosphere to what is typically an individual sport — make its long-awaited Olympic debut. For all of these reasons, I believe we are going to witness the most unique and inspiring Games in history, and we encourage the entire multisport community to get behind our athletes and support Team USA before, during and after the Games.”

“I am fired up by the talent and potential of this team, and excited to finally see our athletes in Tokyo in just a few weeks,” said John Farra, USA Triathlon High Performance General Manager. “I want to take a moment to thank the team behind the team — the coaches, physios, dietitians, massage therapists, sports psychs, bike mechanics and USA Triathlon’s corporate partners — as well as family and friends, who have provided support in so many forms to help these athletes’ dreams become a reality. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the very difficult decisions that the Games Athlete Selection Committee faced in order to finalize this team. USA Triathlon has an incredibly deep field of athletes, with more individuals deserving of a nod than there are spots available to Tokyo.”

Toyota is a Proud Partner of USA Triathlon, as well as the International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).

“As a founding partner of USA Triathlon, we are proud to support the announcement of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team,” said Dedra DeLilli, group manager, sponsorship, integration & auto shows, Toyota Motor North America. “The naming of the team who will represent the United States on the world’s biggest stage has been a long time coming and is such an exciting moment for this elite group of athletes. Their perseverance and resilience on the road to Tokyo is extraordinary and we congratulate each of the athletes as they go for the gold.”

Qualification Process
USA Triathlon designated two Auto-Selection Events for the U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team, in which athletes had the opportunity to auto-qualify for Tokyo by meeting specific criteria. The two Auto-Selection events were the 2019 ITU World Olympic Qualification Event on Aug. 4, 2019, and the 2021 World Triathlon Championship Series Yokohama on May 15. Rappaport became the first woman to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team with a fifth-place finish at the 2019 Tokyo event. Knibb joined Rappaport on the women’s roster by way of her victory May 15 in Yokohama, Japan, while Pearson claimed the first spot on the men’s team thanks to a bronze-medal performance in Yokohama.

At the conclusion of the World Triathlon Olympic Qualification Period on June 14, based on the World Triathlon Olympic Rankings, the U.S. officially earned three spots for women and two spots for men. With Rappaport and Knibb already qualified for women and Pearson already qualified for men, that left one female spot and one male spot open to be named via discretion by USA Triathlon’s Games Athlete Selection Committee, taking into account an athlete’s full resume of results since the start of the Olympic Qualification Period (May 2018). McDowell and Zaferes were ultimately selected for the discretionary spots. For a complete explanation of U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team qualifying, click here.

Triathlon at the Olympic Games
Triathlon at the Olympic Games will include individual competitions for men and women, as well as a Mixed Relay, which makes its debut as an Olympic medal event. In the individual events, athletes cover a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run. In the Mixed Relay, four athletes from the same country (two men, two women) compete on a team. Each athlete covers a 300m swim, 6.8k bike and 2k run before tagging off to the next teammate, with the fastest combined time winning the race. The U.S. is historically strong in the Mixed Relay format, winning five World Championship medals including gold in 2016.

The Olympic men’s triathlon competition is scheduled for Sunday, July 25, at 5:30 p.m. ET (Monday, July 26 at 6:30 a.m. Tokyo time). The Olympic women’s event is set for Monday, July 26, at 5:30 p.m. ET (Tuesday, July 27 at 6:30 a.m. Tokyo time). The Mixed Relay is set for Friday, July 30, at 6:30 p.m. ET (Saturday, July 31 at 7:30 a.m. Tokyo time).

Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.)
Knibb, 23, is the youngest woman ever to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team. She has been the U.S. National Team’s youngest member since she first made the team in 2017. A triathlete since childhood, she grew up competing in USA Triathlon’s youth and junior elite circuit while running for her school’s cross-country and track teams (Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C.) and swimming with Nation’s Capital Swim Club. She went on to win the 2016 and 2017 Junior World Championships and the 2018 Under-23 World Championships — one of just three women ever to capture world titles at both the Junior and U23 levels. Knibb is a 2020 graduate of Cornell, where she ran NCAA track and cross-country for four years while balancing her elite triathlon career. She also joined the Cornell swim team her senior year. Today, Knibb trains in Boulder, Colorado, with Origin Performance Squad, an elite international training group coached by Ian O’Brien.

Summer Rappaport (Thornton, Colo.)
Rappaport, 29, was the first athlete to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team in 2019. She grew up in Colorado and attended Mountain Range High School in Westminster, achieving first team all-conference honors in both swimming and cross-country. She went on to compete in NCAA Division I swimming and cross-country at Villanova University. As a collegiate swimmer, Rappaport placed in the top eight of the Big East Championship in each of her four years. Throughout her cross-country career, she earned 2011-12 Academic honors, 2012 All-Mid-Atlantic Region, 2012 All-Big East, and placed fourth at the 2013 Big East Championships in the 5,000. After college, she was recruited to triathlon through the USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program and began competing as an elite in March 2014. She is a five-time World Triathlon Championship Series medalist and 13-time World Triathlon Cup medalist. Rappaport trains with The Triathlon Squad, an elite international training group coached by Paulo Sousa.

Katie Zaferes (Cary, N.C.)
2016 U.S. Olympian

Zaferes, 32, grew up in Hampstead, Maryland, and was a multi-time state champion in track & field at North Carroll High School. She went on to compete in track & field and cross-country for Syracuse University, specializing in the steeplechase and breaking multiple school records. She was later identified by USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program founder Barb Lindquist, who recognized her steeplechase background as a strong foundation for success in triathlon. Zaferes began competing at the elite level in 2013 and made her Olympic debut at the Rio 2016 Games, where she finished 18th. Zaferes has risen steadily through the international rankings throughout her career, placing fifth overall in the World Triathlon Championship Series in 2015, fourth in 2016, third in 2017, and second in 2018, before capturing her first career World Triathlon Championship title in 2019. She is the No. 1-ranked athlete in the World Triathlon Olympic Qualification Rankings heading into Tokyo. Zaferes lives in Cary, North Carolina, and is coached by Joel Filliol.

Kevin McDowell (Geneva, Ill.)
2015 U.S. Pan American Team Member, 2010 U.S. Youth Olympian

McDowell, 28, grew up participating in USA Triathlon’s youth and junior elite triathlon circuit as part of the Chicago-based Multisport Madness Triathlon Team. He was USA Triathlon’s Junior Athlete of the Year in 2009 and 2010 and represented Team USA at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, where he earned silver in the individual event and bronze in the Mixed Relay. He went on to win a bronze medal at the 2011 Junior World Championships. Later that year, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and took six months off to complete chemotherapy. A year later, he returned to elite competition, making his senior-level World Cup debut. He would go on to win gold at the 2014 FISU World University Triathlon Championships, and silver at the Pan American Games Toronto 2015. McDowell is now a seven-time World Triathlon Cup medalist and recently celebrated 10 years cancer-free. He currently lives and trains in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and is coached by Nate Wilson.

Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.)
Pearson, 27, is originally from Spring Lake, New Jersey, where he grew up as a competitive swimmer, ocean lifeguard and promising high school runner. He went on to run cross-country and track & field at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was a seven-time All-American. He got his start in elite triathlon through USA Triathlon’s Collegiate Recruitment Program, which identifies top NCAA swimmers and runners who have the potential to excel as triathletes. After winning the overall title at the USA Triathlon Age Group Sprint National Championships in 2017, he debuted as an elite triathlete in 2018. He is experiencing a breakout 2021 season, winning bronze in Yokohama on May 15 and silver in Leeds, England, on June 6, to become the first U.S. male ever to earn multiple World Triathlon Championship Series medals. Pearson currently trains in Boulder and is coached by Dean Golich.

All U.S. Olympic Team nominations are pending final approval by the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee. For more information about USA Triathlon at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, visit usatriathlon.org/tokyo2020. USA Triathlon will produce and distribute its Tokyo 2020 Media and Fan Guide in the coming weeks. 

The 2020 U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team will be named on Tuesday, July 6.


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 begins 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, brings 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, will celebrate 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 and paratriathlon 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).

USA Triathlon Operation CO>COVID-19 a Success!

By Khem Suthiwan

Their journey began the evening of Friday, June 19th at 6:30pm MT, at the Utah-Colorado border just west of Grand Junction. Their goal, to complete a 483-mile relay ride across the state of Colorado while raising money for the USA Triathlon Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund and the Care and Share Food Bank of Southern Colorado.

Over the course of 483 miles, the riders averaged 20 mph, climbed nearly 23,000 feet of elevation with their highest point at Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet of elevation. Just before 8:00pm and beating the sunset, all nine riders joined together for the final mile to the Kansas-Colorado state line.

We were able to catch up to them within a few hours of the finish. All the athletes and crew were in great spirits, looking forward to seeing the state line.

At a rider exchange spot with about 20 miles to go, a deputy from the Sheriff of Cheyenne County pulled over with flashing lights. His first words were “You guys are obviously part of some sort of bike team.” The crew immediately jumped in to tell the deputy about the relay ride, and that if he wanted to talk to someone in charge, the CEO (Rocky Harris) is coming down the road about to finish his current leg of the relay. Many laughs were exchanged and his handcuffs made an appearance for fun. At the next rider exchange stop, the deputy offered up a donation to the crew. A great gesture to an already amazing day.

The participating riders included:

• Kyle Coon, Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful 
• Hailey Danz, Rio 2016 Paralympic Silver Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful
• Kendall Gretsch, PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Nordic Skiing Gold Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful
• Kevin McDowell, Tokyo Olympic Hopeful
• Jack O’Neil, U.S. Paratriathlon Junior Development Team Member
• Melissa Stockwell, Rio 2016 Paralympic Bronze Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful, Team Toyota Athlete
• Renée Tomlin, Tokyo Olympic Hopeful
• Alex Libin, Elite Triathlete and Guide for Kyle Coon 
• Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon Chief Executive Officer

The team had set a goal to raise $20,210 in reference to the postponed Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will take place in 2021. At the time of their finish, $21,568 had been raised with donations still rolling in. Donations are still being accepted at usatriathlonfoundation.org.

Toyota U.S. Paratriathlon Resident Team to Ride Across Colorado to Benefit COVID-19 Relief, Care & Share Food Bank

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO – MAY 27: Paralympian and former U.S. Army Officer Melissa Stockwell cycles during a training session on May 27, 2020 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Athletes across the globe are now training in isolation under strict policies in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

From USA Triathlon

Nine U.S. elite triathletes training for the postponed Tokyo Paralympic and Olympic Games, along with USA Triathlon CEO Rocky Harris, will cycle a combined 483 miles across the state of Colorado starting Friday, June 19, in a 24-hour relay challenge dubbed “Operation CO>COVID.” 

The ride, which is supported by Toyota vehicles, was fully planned and executed by members of the Toyota U.S. Paratriathlon Resident Team including Kyle Coon, Hailey Danz, Kendall Gretsch, Allysa Seely, Melissa Stockwell and Howie Sanborn (Sanborn will not participate in the ride due to injury). The squad normally trains out of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, but the training center’s athletic facilities have been closed since mid-March due to COVID-19. 

The event is designed to drive awareness and donations for the USA Triathlon Foundation, which will then distribute proceeds equally between two causes: the USA Triathlon Foundation COVID-19 Relief Fund, which provides grants to members of the multisport community impacted by the pandemic, and the Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado. Donations are being accepted at usatriathlonfoundation.org. The team has set a goal to raise $20,210 in reference to the postponed Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will take place in 2021.

In addition to the paratriathlon resident team and Harris, participants in the challenge also include U.S. Olympic hopefuls Kevin McDowell and Renée Tomlin; up-and-coming 17-year-old paratriathlete Jack O’Neil; and elite triathlete Alex Libin. Libin will serve as a sighted guide for Kyle Coon, who is visually impaired.

“The Tokyo postponement left us all wanting to do something to both test ourselves physically and to give back to the community,” said Stockwell, a U.S. Army veteran and Team Toyota athlete who won a bronze medal in paratriathlon’s debut at the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. “The idea to ride our bikes 483 miles across the state of Colorado accomplished both. Instead of racing in Tokyo, we will be racing the sun to finish our ride before sundown and raising money to give back to the community for COVID-19 relief. We look forward to completing these miles as a team and making a small difference.”

“Our paratriathlon resident team came up with Operation CO>COVID as a unique challenge for themselves, but more importantly, because they wanted to give back to our community during this unprecedented time,” Harris, CEO of USA Triathlon, said. “I am incredibly proud to ride alongside this group of individuals who, even when faced with the disappointment and uncertainty of an Olympic and Paralympic Games postponement, are still motivated to support others whose livelihoods have been threatened due to COVID-19.”

“It’s incredible to see the Toyota U.S. Paratriathlon Resident Team come together for such a great cause,” said Dedra DeLilli, group manager, Toyota Olympic and Paralympic Marketing. “We’re inspired by the athletes’ motivation to go above and beyond to create a positive impact for both the multisport community and the local community where they train. We can’t wait to follow the team’s ride, and our Toyota employees all over the country will be cheering them on.”

The ride will cover 483 miles in total distance, gaining nearly 23,000 feet of elevation as it extends from the Utah-Colorado state line in Montrose, Colorado, to the Colorado-Kansas state line at U.S. 40 and CR 57 (near the town of Arapahoe, Colorado). The route travels from the Western Slope up into the Rocky Mountains, cresting Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet of elevation before descending into the Front Range via Colorado Springs and into the Eastern Plains. To view the complete route, click here.

Athletes will be divided into three teams of three, with each person covering up to four different segments ranging from 3-15 miles at a time. The first riders will begin cycling from the Utah-Colorado state line in the evening (exact time TBD) on Friday, June 19, with a goal to be at the Colorado-Kansas state line 24 hours later on Saturday, June 20. 

Toyota support vehicles will transport the rest of the athletes and their gear along the route, stopping to swap riders after each segment. The athletes must collectively maintain an average of 21 miles per hour in order to successfully cross the state within 24 hours. 

The participating athletes include:

  • Kyle Coon, Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful 
  • Hailey Danz, Rio 2016 Paralympic Silver Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful
  • Kendall Gretsch, PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Gold Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful
  • Kevin McDowell, Tokyo Olympic Hopeful
  • Jack O’Neil, U.S. Paratriathlon Junior Development Team Member
  • Allysa Seely, Rio 2016 Paralympic Gold Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful 
  • Melissa Stockwell, Rio 2016 Paralympic Bronze Medalist and Tokyo Paralympic Hopeful, Team Toyota Athlete
  • Renée Tomlin, Tokyo Olympic Hopeful
  • Alex Libin, Elite Triathlete and Guide for Kyle Coon 
  • Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon Chief Executive Officer

FOR MEDIA: 

  • All riders are available for interviews leading up to the event date, and photos and video b-roll of athletes are available upon request.
  • Interviews, video and photo opportunities are possible during the ride itself but must be requested and coordinated in advance, as the relay is continuous and transport vans will be in motion throughout the day.
  • For all in-person coverage, members of the media must wear masks and maintain six feet of distance from athletes and support staff.
  • To request interviews or media materials, please contact Caryn Maconi, USA Triathlon Communications Manager, at caryn.maconi@usatriathlon.org or 443-534-5954.

To learn more about Operation CO>COVID, or to make a donation to the USA Triathlon Foundation, visit usatriathlonfoundation.org.


About the USA Triathlon Foundation
The USA Triathlon Foundation was created in 2014 by the USA Triathlon Board of Directors as an independent tax-exempt 501(c)(3) entity. Under the leadership of its Trustees and Committee members, the Foundation serves as a means to create a healthier America through triathlon and seeks to transform lives by opening up new pathways to the sport for all, especially those who are otherwise underserved. The USA Triathlon Foundation operates with the belief that every child should have the chance to participate, every paratriathlete should have the opportunity to compete, and every aspiring elite athlete should be able to chase his or her Olympic dream. Since the Foundation’s inception, more than $3 million has been provided to worthy causes and organizations that support its mission. Donations to the USA Triathlon Foundation ensure America’s youth are introduced to the benefits and fun of a multisport lifestyle, athletes with disabilities receive the training, support and gear to be able to participate and excel, and the best aspiring young athletes have a chance to pursue their Olympic Dreams. Visit usatriathlonfoundation.org to learn more and donate today.

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 and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 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 International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).
– usatriathlon.org –

NINE U.S. ELITE ATHLETES SET TO COMPETE AT ITU WORLD TRIATHLON BERMUDA ON SATURDAY

From USA Triathlon

Kasper earned her first career WTS medal in 2017. Scottie T/ITU Media

Kasper leads American contingent at No. 2 on women’s start list

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Nine U.S. elite athletes are set to compete on Saturday at ITU World Triathlon Bermuda, a first-time ITU World Triathlon Series destination.

The Olympic-distance race covers a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run. The action begins with a two-lap swim in the calm waters of Hamilton’s harbor. From there, athletes will complete 10 laps of a 4k bike course along the coastline, climbing and descending the infamous “Corkscrew Hill” with each lap. The four-lap run then takes competitors through the spectator-lined streets of downtown Hamilton and into the National Stadium for the finish.

The elite men race first at 12:06 p.m. ET (1:06 p.m. local time), and the elite women follow at 3:06 p.m. ET (4:06 p.m. local time). Both races will be broadcast live online at triathlonlive.tv. Both races will also air on NBC’s Olympic Channel, with coverage starting at 1 p.m. ET.

Six U.S. women will toe the line, led by Kristen Kasper (North Andover, Mass.) at No. 2 on the start list. Kasper has had a strong start to the 2018 season, collecting one gold and one silver in ITU World Cup events in addition to a fourth-place finish at the rainy and technical WTS season opener in Abu Dhabi. Katie Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.) will be on the hunt for medals after crashing out of the Abi Dhabi race in March. Zaferes finished the 2017 WTS season ranked third overall, and has 11 career podiums in the series to date.

Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.), Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.), Summer Cook (Thornton, Colo.) and Chelsea Burns (Seattle, Wash.) will also be in the mix. Knibb and Spivey each cracked the WTS podium for the first time last year, earning silver medals in Leeds and Edmonton respectively. Cook was the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Edmonton champion and finished last season ranked ninth in the overall WTS standings. Burns has two ITU World Cup podiums to her name, but is still chasing her first WTS hardware.

The women will face a strong international field, headlined by Bermuda’s own two-time ITU world champion Flora Duffy. Duffy won six of the seven WTS races she started last year, and will be hard to beat as she races on the streets of her hometown. Also on the start list is Rachel Klamer of the Netherlands, who is the current WTS leader after taking the win in Abu Dhabi. Other top contenders on the women’s side include 2017 U23 World Championships silver medalist Melanie Santos of Portugal and Canada’s Joanna Brown, who finished the 2017 WTS season ranked seventh overall.

Visit wts.triathlon.org for a complete women’s start list.

Representing the U.S. in the men’s race are Ben Kanute (Phoenix, Ariz.), Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo). All three athletes had outstanding 2017 seasons, and all three earned USA Triathlon Athlete of the Year recognition (Kanute in the non-drafting category, McDowell in the draft-legal/ITU category and Hemming in the U23 category).

Kanute is coming off a strong 2017, highlighted by a second-place finish at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship and a win at the Island House Triathlon. He opened the 2018 season with a top-20 finish at the WTS season opener in Abu Dhabi, and followed that with a silver-medal performance at the Sarasota-Bradenton CAMTRI North American Championships.

McDowell earned two ITU World Cup medals in 2017, and has shown he is still in good form this year by placing top-10 at two ITU World Cup events in March. Hemming has also raced well to open the season. The 2017 U23 national champion topped the podium at the Clermont CAMTRI Sprint Triathlon American Cup in March, and a week later edged Kanute for the win at the Sarasota-Bradenton CAMTRI North American Championships.

Henri Schoeman of South Africa holds the No. 1 spot on the men’s start list. Schoeman has been unstoppable in 2018, taking the win in Abu Dhabi and earning the Commonwealth Games title a month later. Defending world champion Mario Mola of Spain is in the No. 2 position after placing second to Schoeman in Abu Dhabi. Other top contenders on the men’s start list include 2017 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final winner Vincent Luis and 2017 U23 World Championships silver medalist Dorian Coninx, both of France.

Visit wts.triathlon.org for a complete men’s start list.

ITU World Triathlon Bermuda is the second of nine stops on the circuit this year, including September’s ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Gold Coast, Australia.

STRONG U.S. CONTINGENT TO COMPETE AT ITU WORLD TRIATHLON ABU DHABI ON FRIDAY

Katie Zaferes placed seventh at WTS Abu Dhabi in 2017. ITU Media/Janos M. Schmidt.

From USA Triathlon

World Triathlon Series opener features thrilling sprint-distance course

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Eight American athletes are set to compete in the ITU World Triathlon Series opener in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Friday, taking on a stacked international field.

The sprint-distance race, which covers a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run, is held on the iconic Yas Island. The course is built for fast and furious racing, with portions of the bike and run taking athletes around the Yas Marina Formula One circuit. The elite men race first at 4:36 a.m. EST (1:36 p.m. local time), and the elite women follow at 6:36 a.m. EST (3:36 p.m. local time). Both races will be broadcast live online at triathlonlive.tv.

Five U.S. women will toe the line on Friday, including 2016 U.S. Olympian and 2017 WTS overall bronze medalist Katie Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.). Zaferes had a stellar 2017 season that included two regular-season WTS podiums in Edmonton and Yokohama, in addition to her silver-medal performance at the Rotterdam ITU World Triathlon Grand Final.

Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.) and Summer Cook (Thornton, Colo.), who finished fourth and 10th respectively in the 2017 WTS rankings, will also look for strong season-opening performances. Kasper earned four top-five finishes on the WTS circuit last year, including a bronze in Yokohama.

Cook was also consistent in 2017, earning a season-best fourth-place finish at ITU World Triathlon Edmonton and placing ninth at the Grand Final in Rotterdam. She and Zaferes are the only two Americans on the start list who have reached the top step of the WTS podium, with Cook winning ITU World Triathlon Edmonton in 2016 and Zaferes taking the win at ITU World Triathlon Hamburg in 2016.

Also set to compete are Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.), who earned her first WTS medal with a silver in Leeds last year, and Chelsea Burns, who cracked the ITU Triathlon World Cup podium for the first time in 2017.

The U.S. women will be up against stiff competition, as 2017 world champion Flora Duffy of Bermuda and 2017 WTS overall silver medalist Ashleigh Gentle of Australia lead the start list. Defending WTS Abu Dhabi champion Andrea Hewitt of New Zealand, Great Britain’s Jessica Learmonth, Canada’s Joanna Brown and the Netherlands’ Rachel Klamer will also be medal threats. Visit wts.triathlon.org for a complete women’s start list.

Representing the U.S. in the men’s race are Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.), Ben Kanute (Phoenix, Ariz.) and Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D.). McDowell will look to build on a successful stretch of late-season racing in 2017, which saw him earn podiums at ITU Triathlon World Cup races in Huelva, Spain, and Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida.

Kanute had a strong fall season in non-drafting races, placing second to Spain’s Javier Gomez at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in September and earning the overall win at the Island House Triathlon in November. He will look to improve upon his 16th-place performance at last year’s WTS Abu Dhabi stop.

Smoragiewicz is making his second career WTS start in Abu Dhabi; in his debut on the circuit last year in Edmonton, he placed 27th. Smoragiewicz was the top U.S. man at the 2017 ITU Under-23 World Championships last September, placing 13th.

The men’s international field is stacked, with 2017 world champion and 2016 WTS Abu Dhabi champion Mario Mola of Spain holding the No. 1 spot. Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway, the 2017 world bronze medalist, and Great Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist, are also both set to compete.

Visit wts.triathlon.org for a complete men’s start list.

ITU World Triathlon Abu Dhabi is the first of eight stops on the regular-season WTS circuit before September’s ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Gold Coast, Australia.