GOLD COAST, Australia — Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.) executed a perfect race on Friday to win gold at the ITU Triathlon Under-23 World Championships in Gold Coast, Australia, finishing more than a minute-and-a-half ahead of her closest competitor.
Knibb, the 2016 and 2017 junior world champion, is only the third woman in ITU history to claim world titles at both the junior and U23 levels. Tamara Gorman (Rapid City, S.D.), who also competed today, won U23 Worlds last year and claimed the junior title in 2013. Germany’s Laura Lindemann won Junior Worlds in 2014 and 2015 before claiming the U23 title in 2016.
The U23 World Championships course featured a 1,500-meter swim in the Coral Sea at Broadwater Tourist Park, a 38-kilometer bike along Gold Coast Highway and a 10-kilometer run finishing at Mitchell Park.
Knibb started her day strong, exiting the swim in third place just steps behind Great Britain’s Sophie Alden and France’s Cassandre Beaugrand. On the bike, she played to her strengths and immediately pulled off on a solo breakaway. With each passing lap, she widened her lead on the 11-strong chase group — which included the United States’ other two competitors, Gorman and Erika Ackerlund. By the time she hit the run course, Knibb had more than two-and-a-half minutes on the rest of the field.
Beaugrand, the strongest runner in the field, did her best to cut into Knibb’s lead — and while a race-leading 35-minute, 3-second 10k tightened the gap slightly, Knibb held strong with a 36:13. In the end, Knibb was all on her own down the finish chute to take the world title with a total time of 1:53:47.
The French star would claim silver in 1:55:22, and Italy’s Angelica Olmo rounded out the podium in 1:56:39.
Knibb said she knew Beaugrand was making a move behind her, and she wasn’t discounting the Frenchwoman who ran a commanding 15:48 5k to win ITU World Triathlon Hamburg earlier this year.
“It’s not over until it’s over. That’s the fun thing about triathlon, but it’s also the nerve-wracking thing. It’s not over until you cross that finish line,” Knibb said. “I started my season very rough, so to be able to end it well, I think that speaks dividends to my support team.”
Ackerlund (Missoula, Mont.) had a strong race, running her way into fifth place in 1:57:18. After sitting out of U23 Worlds last year due to illness, Friday’s race marked Ackerlund’s first-ever Olympic-distance triathlon.
“I ended up with sickness the night before the race last year. I wanted to turn it around so badly this year and show people that I could be here, and I think I did that,” Ackerlund said. “I took a big break from racing and did a lot more training this year than I’ve previously been able to, so I knew my run was strong.”
Gorman finished 18th, crossing the line in 2:00:12.
Alec Wilimovsky (Malibu, Calif.) and Seth Rider (Germantown, Tenn.) represented the U.S. in the men’s U23 race. Wilimovsky had an excellent swim, leading the field out of the water in 17:42. He and Rider then joined a lead pack of 12 men on the bike. That group held together for the entire course, building a gap of about 80 seconds on the chasers by the final lap.
The medals would come down to the run. A leading trio made up of New Zealand’s Tayler Reid, Great Britain’s Samuel Dickinson and France’s Leo Bergere formed on the first lap — and as those three steadily ran away from the rest of the field, they looked to be the likely podium.
Reid surged ahead in the final lap, ultimately breaking the tape in 1:44:08, while Dickinson grabbed silver in 1:44:20. Bergere, however, struggled on the final lap. He was ultimately overtaken by Hungary’s Bence Bicsák, who claimed bronze in 1:44:31.
Wilimovsky and Rider both were in top-10 position after the first of four laps, but the massive effort on the bike took its toll over the remaining 7.5k. Wilimovsky crossed the finish line 21st with a time of 1:47:29, and Rider took 25th in 1:48:47.
“I knew I was feeling a lot of that swim and bike, so the first 2.5k (of the run) I tried to have fun with it, and then it was just survival mode from there on out,” Wilimovsky said. “The experience here has been amazing. Just to have all the team staff here helping you out, and to represent the USA with one other guy on the world stage is amazing.”
Friday’s races were held as part of the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final, which runs through Sunday, Sept. 16. The Grand Final marks the culmination of the ITU World Triathlon Series for elite men and women, while also featuring world championship events for juniors, U23s, age-group athletes and elite paratriathletes. For the complete schedule of events in Gold Coast, visit goldcoast.triathlon.org.
ITU U23 World Championships
1,500m swim, 38k bike, 10k run
U23 Women — Compete Results
1. Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.), 1:53:47
2. Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA), 1:55:22
3. Angelica Olmo (ITA), 1:56:39
1. Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.), 1:53:47
5. Erika Ackerlund (Missoula, Mont.), 1:57:18
18. Tamara Gorman (Rapid City, S.D.), 2:00:12
U23 Men — Complete Results
1. Tayler Reid (NZL), 1:44:08
2. Samuel Dickinson (GBR), 1:44:20
3. Bence Bicsák (HUN) ,1:44:31
21. Alec Wilimovsky (Malibu, Calif.), 1:47:29
25. Seth Rider (Germantown, Tenn.), 1:48:47
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 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).