With support from USA team members Brian Fleischmann and Matt Chrabot, Reed was able to break away late in the bike portion of the race to enter the run with a slight gap over the other competitors. It took Unger and hometown favorite Hendrik DeVilliers more than nine kilometers of the 10 kilometer run leg to catch the powerful American and the three sprinted to the finish line together.
Collapsing at the tape, Reed finished just one second behind Unger followed by DeVilliers. The race was so close that the online race coverage initially announced Reed as third. “It was the hardest World Cup of my career,” said Reed, who is no stranger to the podium at the World Cup level.
With his high placement, the winner of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials collected a bushel of Olympic Qualifying Points, used to calculate athlete eligibility and the number of starting positions for each country.
“Matty seems to get stronger every week, and he will be a force to reckon with in Beijing. He is a man on a mission.” said USA Triathlon Sport Performance Director Scott Schnitzspahn. “Matty is taking his country on his back to guarantee the USA has the full team of three starters for the Olympic Games.”
After the Richards Bay race, the U.S. temporarily fell out of the top eight countries that can send three athletes to the Games, based on the ranking of the third athlete from each country. Both Reed and Hunter Kemper are both within striking distance of that final spot.
“Unfortunately, Reed and Hunter Kemper (Colorado Springs, Colo.), two of our most consistent top finishers were sick and injured during a significant portion of the qualifying period. Now that they are healthy, we are coming from behind, but we will finish strong and there is no doubt in my mind that we will have the full team for Beijing,” said Schnitzspahn.
Indeed, the system is working in favor of the U.S., as Reed (currently 4th ranked American) and Kemper (currently third) can add to their point totals with their remaining World Cup and World Championship performances, as they have only raced but a few times as of late in qualifying races. Both are podium contenders every time they toe the line, but especially now, with Reed racing better than ever and Kemper peaking for Worlds and both with a contingent of experienced teammates supporting them at each race.
Additionally, the third-ranked athletes from the other nations that the U.S. athletes are chasing are either limited by the number of races they have already scored in or are not regular top finishers. The U.S. only has to pass one other country to ensure three men on the start line in Beijing.
Watch ITU video of the race.
View the complete Olympic Qualification rankings.