By Blythe Lawrence | Sept. 15, 2018, 10:50 a.m. (ET)
Katie Zaferes smiles on the podium at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final on Sept. 15, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia.

 

In 2015, she was fifth. In 2016, fourth. Last year, third.

Olympian Katie Zaferes capped off her stellar 2018 season by securing the women’s triathlon world silver medal Saturday in Gold Coast, Australia.

With a third-place finish at the World Triathlon Grand Final, the eighth and final event of the annual ITU World Triathlon Series, whose rankings determines the sport’s world championship podium, the California resident ceded the world No. 1 ranking to Vicky Holland of Great Britain but still finished with the best overall result of her career.

Zaferes’ World Triathlon Series season started off on a scary note as she suffered a concussion from a bike crash in the first race, but she quickly bounced back and medaled at the next four stops, claiming the series lead at the third. With a sixth-place finish and another silver, she held onto that lead heading into the Grand Final.

The battle to be world champion came down to the Grand Final, with Zaferes and reigning Olympic bronze medalist Holland the only two with the possibility to take the overall crown. Zaferes entered Australia with 34 points over Holland and it worked out that whoever of the two finished ahead of the other would capture the world title, setting up an exciting final.

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Zaferes was third behind Holland and her British teammate Jessica Learmonth following the 1,500-meter swim, the first segment of the three-part race that also included a 38-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run. The 29-year-old kept the pace on the bike and briefly led during the run before being overtaken by home favorite Ashleigh Gentle of Australia and Holland, who crossed the tape 1-2. Gentle finished in 1 hour, 51 minutes, 59 seconds, with Holland leaning in two seconds behind her.

Zaferes was third, clocking 1:52:33, the first of four Americans to cross the tape among the top 15. Kirsten Kasper was fifth (1:53:14), Taylor Spivey seventh (1:53:27) and Chelsea Burns 13th (1:54:05).

“Today, I tried a different tactic on the run, because I knew my typical way wasn’t going to beat Vicky,” Zaferes told USA Triathlon. “I tried something different and I didn’t beat her either, but I’m proud of myself for taking the risk for that. For the season, I’m just proud of myself for being solid the whole way.”

Having consistently moved up the World Triathlon Series rankings for four straight years, Zaferes knows where she’ll end up if things continue this way.

“Every year, I’m getting better and learning a little bit more, so I can’t fault myself for that,” she said. “I felt a taste of it today, where I can do and how to get there and what I need to get better with. You learn every race.”

Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.