GOLD COAST, Australia — Team USA athletes collected 20 total medals and six world titles on Sunday at the ITU Age Group Standard-Distance Triathlon World Championships, held on the final day of racing at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Gold Coast, Australia.
The Standard World Championships featured a 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run, all centered around the Broadwater Parklands at Southport. Standard-distance athletes qualified for Team USA with a top-18 age-group finish at the 2017 USA Triathlon Olympic-Distance Age Group National Championships in Omaha, or by placing near the top of the USA Triathlon year-end rankings for their respective age groups.
Team USA’s six world champions included: Matthew Murray (M20-24, Pearland, Texas), Todd Buckingham (M25-29, Big Rapids, Mich.), Steph Popelar (F50-54, Elizabeth, Colo.), Kelly Dippold (F55-59, Olathe, Kan.), Missy LeStrange (F65-69, Visalia, Calif.), Sibyl Jacobson (F75-79, New York, N.Y.) and Robert Plant (M75-79, Woodside, Calif.).
Buckingham and LeStrange also won their divisions at the ITU Age Group Sprint World Championships on Thursday.
“I definitely felt like I had a chance to win both (the sprint and standard titles), but you never know,” Buckingham said. “I’m just glad that all the hard work I’ve put in this year and the previous year amounted to a couple of world titles. I’m still in disbelief — it doesn’t feel real.”
Not only did Buckingham win the men’s 25-29 age group on Sunday, but his time of 1 hour, 52 minutes, 2 seconds was the fastest overall for an amateur man. The men’s 30-34 age group silver medalist, Vant Lammers (Madison, Wis.) was the fourth-fastest male overall in 1:53:03.
Gabrielle Bunten (Forest Lake, Minn.), who took silver in the women’s 25-29 age group, had the second-fastest overall amateur time in the women's race in 2:05:19. The only woman to finish ahead of her in the overall field was fellow 25-29 age group competitor Kristelle Congi of France, who recorded a time of 2:04:17. The bronze medalist in that age group, Rachel Mensch (Madison, Wis.) was the fourth-fastest female amateur overall with a time of 2:05:56.
“I lost some ground on the bike, which was a little frustrating, but I just tried to believe in myself and know that I could reel people in on the run. Not quite good enough for first, but I’m happy,” Bunten said. “To wear the red, white and blue is pretty neat. And the friends that you meet here from Team USA — you have an extra special bond being on the team.”
Kirsten Sass (F35-39, McKenzie, Tenn.) reached the podium at the Standard World Championships for the fourth consecutive year with a bronze-medal age group finish. Sass has had a busy Grand Final week, winning her age group at the Sprint World Championships on Friday before guiding elite paratriathlete Amy Dixon (Encinitas, Calif.) in the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships on Saturday.
“This (experience) has been phenomenal. Almost like an emotional roller coaster, kind of mixing it up a little bit,” Sass said. “Yesterday, the (Paratriathlon World Championships) was obviously the big race of the weekend. Today, to come out here and just celebrate being able to race on a world-class stage and cheer on the other athletes is just unbelievable.”
For men’s 20-24 world champion Murray, Sunday's victory was especially meaningful.
“When the hurt became unbearable, I thought of my friend Geoffrey who passed away this year. He was a good friend of mine, and we raced track together in college as recently as this May,” Murray said. “I wrote his name on my race shoes in honor of him, and every time I would think, ‘Let’s get it, Geoffrey,’ during that run, the pain would subside and my pace would quicken. I didn’t realize how fast I was running until after when my brother told me I ran a 31:24, which is the fastest 10k I’ve ever run by a long shot.”
More than 500 U.S. athletes competed for Team USA in either the ITU Sprint or Standard World Championships, winning a combined 33 medals and 12 world titles across the two disciplines.
The four-day ITU World Triathlon Grand Final marked the culmination of the 2018 ITU World Triathlon Series by crowning the men’s and women’s elite world champions, while also featuring world championship events for elite paratriathletes, U23s, juniors and age-group athletes. Visit usatriathlon.org for recaps of all races.
2018 ITU Age Group Standard-Distance Triathlon World Championships
1,500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run — Complete Results
United States Medalists
3. Katelyn Elliott (Porter, Texas), 2:18:46
3. Mitchel Platt (Chandler, Ariz.), 1:59:02
1. Matthew Murray (Pearland, Texas), 1:53:25
2 Gabrielle Bunten (Forest Lake, Minn.), 2:05:19
3. Rachel Mensch (Madison, Wis.), 2:05:56
1. Todd Buckingham (Big Rapids, Mich.), 1:52:02
2. Vant Lammers (Madison, Wis.), 1:53:03
3. Kirsten Sass (McKenzie, Tenn.), 2:08:57
3. Jessica Holmes (Natick, Mass.), 2:11:24
3. Adrienne LeBlanc (Scottsdale, Ariz.), 2:11:46
1. Steph Popelar (Elizabeth, Colo.), 2:11:06
3. Barry Phelps (Santa Clara, Calif.), 2:03:39
1. Kelly Dippold (Olathe, Kan.), 2:13:49
2. Lee Walter (Oklahoma City, Okla.), 2:02:31
3. Sharon Johnson (Andover, Mass.), 2:23:05
1. Missy LeStrange (Visalia, Calif.), 2:34:37
3. Nancy Avitabile (Bethesda, Md.), 2:52:15
1. Sibyl Jacobson (New York, N.Y.), 3:22:33
3. Peggy McDowell-Cramer (Santa Monica, Calif.), 3:42:30
1. Robert Plant (Woodside, Calif.), 2:38:05
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).