ROTTERDAM, Netherlands — Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.) stole the show at the ITU Junior World Championships on Friday in Rotterdam, breaking away on the bike and never looking back to successfully defend her 2016 world title.
The 19-year-old has now reached the podium at three consecutive ITU Junior World Championships, as she earned silver in Chicago in 2015 along with her gold in Cozumel, Mexico, last year.
Japan’s Fuka Sega was the leader out of the water, swimming the sprint-distance 750-meter course in 10 minutes, four seconds. Knibb came out in a large group trailing Sega by 12 seconds, but she used her strength on the bike to pull away from the field almost immediately.
Only Sega was able to join the defending champion on a breakaway, and the two cycled together through the first lap of the 20k bike. On lap two, however, Knibb accelerated on her own and Sega was drawn back into the chase pack.
By the time Knibb hit the second transition, she had a gap of 34 seconds on the chasers — but Great Britain’s Kate Waugh was running strong at a 5:34 per mile pace and slowly chipping away at the lead.
Ultimately, Waugh’s 17:19 effort was not quite enough to bridge the gap, and Knibb earned her victory in 1:01:22. Waugh was close behind, crossing the line in 1:01:38, and Sega ran her way back into the bronze-medal position in 1:02:05.
“I’m just really grateful,” Knibb said. “I saw that Kate was closing the gap on me, so I freaked out and ran hard. She really made me earn it. It was a great race, and she had an amazing race.”
Paige Horner (Grimes, Iowa) was the second American across the line, finishing 34th on the day in 1:05:22.
“I had a pretty good swim, and I’m really happy with my run,” Horner said. “This has been a great experience, and I’m so happy I was able to come. Taylor is a great teammate, she’s amazing. I’m so happy for her.”
Also competing in the junior women’s race was Kyleigh Spearing (Frankfort, Ill.), who placed 57th with a time of 1:09:30.
Friday’s racing in Rotterdam concluded with the men’s ITU U23 World Championships. Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D.) and Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.) both raced well, placing 13th and 14th respectively. The U23 race featured an Olympic-distance 1,500m swim, 40k bike and 10k run course.
Hemming and Smoragiewicz both exited the water more than a minute back from the leaders and merged with a large chase group on the bike. While the athletes were hammering over the technical, curvy bike course, it was not enough to gain ground on the front pack, which by the second half was holding strong at about 20 riders.
By the time the chase pack hit the run course, they were about two minutes behind the leaders. Smoragiewicz and Hemming ran side-by-side over much of the 10k course, picking off one athlete after another as they cruised to top-10 run splits.
Raphael Montoya and Dorian Coninx, both of France, sprinted through the finish chute for gold and silver in 1:51:28 and 1:51:32, respectively. Luke Wilian of Australia took the third podium spot in 1:51:48.
Smoragiewicz crossed the line in 1:53:44, followed 11 seconds later by Hemming in 1:53:55.
“I think I had an average swim — not awesome, but not horrible,” Smoragiewicz said. “Then Eli and I just spent a lot of time working our way up on the bike, making sure we weren’t at the back of the pack around all those corners, just trying to be safe and conserve some energy for the run. Thanks to our coaches, parents and USA Triathlon for getting us here.”
The Rotterdam ITU World Triathlon Grand Final continues tomorrow with world championships for junior men, U23 women and elite men and women. The junior men kick off the action at 2 a.m. ET (8 a.m. local time), followed by U23 women at 4 a.m. ET (10 a.m. local time).
The elite men’s race is set for 7:06 a.m. ET (1:06 p.m. local time), and elite women race at 9:51 a.m. ET (3:51 p.m. local time). Both men’s and women’s elite races will be broadcast live at triathlonlive.tv.
Visit usatriathlon.org for complete coverage of U.S. performances at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Rotterdam. Event details, results and more are available at rotterdam.triathlon.org.
ITU Junior World Championships
750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run
Junior Women – Complete Results
1. Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.), 1:01:22
2. Kate Waugh (GBR), 1:01:38
3. Fuka Sega (JPN), 1:02:05
1. Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.), 1:01:22
34. Paige Horner (Grimes, Iowa), 1:05:22
57. Kyleigh Spearing (Frankfort, Ill.), 1:09:30
ITU U23 World Championships
1,500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run
U23 Men – Complete Results
1. Raphael Montoya (FRA), 1:51:28
2. Dorian Coninx (FRA), 1:51:32
3. Luke Wilian (AUS), 1:51:48
13. Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D.), 1:53:44
14. Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.), 1:53:55
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 races and connects with nearly 500,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work with athletes, coaches, and race directors on the grassroots level, 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 Committee (USOC).