Morgan Pearson celebrates after qualifying for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 at a competition on May 15, 2021 in Yokohama, Japan.
Morgan Pearson made some history Saturday in Yokohama, Japan, earning the first individual World Triathlon Series podium of his career, and just the third ever for a U.S. man.
But Pearson’s third-place finish was even more significant than that.
By virtue of finishing in the top eight, Pearson also locked down a spot in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 — heading to the Games for the first time. The 28-year-old from Boulder, Colorado, found himself outside of the lead group following the event’s 1,500-meter swim, but caught up during the 40-kilometer bike. The race came down to the 10-kilometer run, and Pearson was able to pass up two of the lead four runners to finish third in 1:43:12.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a better feeling,” Pearson said in an article from USA Triathlon. “You put in the work and you do the training, and you know you’re in shape to do something special, but none of that really matters when the race starts.”
A seven-time All-American at the University of Colorado, Pearson’s previous best individual finish at a World Triathlon Series event was eighth in Hamburg, Germany, in 2020. He did earn a bronze medal in mixed relay in Edmonton in 2019. Pearson has competed in World Triathlon since 2018.
In the midst of trying to qualify for the Olympic Games, Pearson has been competing with a heavy heart following the death of his brother, Andrew.
“I took a month off in March because my older brother, Andrew, passed away,” Pearson said. “He gave me the boost I needed today, and I was just thinking about him. Hopefully when I’m at the Olympics, he’ll be there with me.”
Pearson becomes the first U.S. man to qualify for the 2020 Games in triathlon; Saturday’s event was the second of two events in which triathletes can qualify for the Games directly. As no other U.S. man finished in the top eight — Kevin McDowell was the next highest finisher in 11th — the rest of the field will be chosen via discretionary selections by USA Triathlon at the close of the qualifying period on June 14. The U.S. can send a maximum of three men to Tokyo.