Olympic Qualification on the Line for U.S. Triathletes at Tokyo Test Event

By USA Triathlon | Aug. 08, 2019, 4:53 p.m. (ET)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — U.S. elite triathletes will be on the hunt for Olympic Team selections next week, as the Tokyo ITU World Olympic Qualification Event gets underway at Odaiba Marine Park from Aug. 15-18. The elite races are the first auto-selection opportunity for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. In addition to the individual elite competitions, race week will also include an ITU Paratriathlon World Cup and an elite Mixed Relay event.

The elite women race Wednesday, Aug. 14 at 6:30 p.m. ET (Thursday at 7:30 a.m. local time), and the elite men’s race is set for Thursday, Aug. 15 at 6:30 p.m. ET (Friday at 7:30 a.m. local time). Athletes will cover an Olympic-distance 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run.

Elite paratriathletes race Friday, Aug. 16 at 5:30 p.m. ET (Saturday at 6:30 a.m. local time), covering a sprint-distance 750m swim, 20k bike and 5k run. Wrapping up the action is the elite mixed relay, set for Saturday, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. ET (Sunday at 8 a.m. local time). 

All races will be broadcast live at triathlonlive.tv, and subscriptions are available for purchase.  

Olympic qualification is on the line in the elite men’s and women’s individual races, with the following as possible scenarios:

  • In the Olympic qualification event, up to two U.S. athletes who finish on the podium in either the men’s or women’s elite races will be auto-selected to the 2020 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team. 
  • If only one U.S. athlete reaches the podium, that athlete will be auto-selected, and the next athlete finishing within the top-eight overall will also earn a spot on the team. 
  • If no U.S. athlete finishes on the podium, then the highest-placing U.S. athlete within the top-eight overall will earn automatic selection. 

Olympic Team selections are subject to the U.S. earning its predicted two to three country slots per gender at the conclusion of the ITU Olympic Qualification Period in 2020. In addition, all Olympic Team nominations are pending final approval by the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

Katie Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.) leads the women’s start list as the current world No. 1. Zaferes, a 2016 U.S. Olympian, has won four gold medals and a silver in the ITU World Triathlon Series this season. She has climbed her way up the world rankings for the past several years, placing fifth in the overall WTS standings in 2015, fourth in 2016, third in 2017 and second in 2018.

Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.) is fourth on the start list, having medaled twice and placed no lower than ninth in WTS races this season. Summer Rappaport (Thornton, Colo.) holds the No. 6 spot. Rappaport returned to the WTS podium for the first time since 2016 this season, earning two silver medals and a bronze in the series to date.

Also racing for the U.S. women are two-time ITU Junior world champion and 2018 ITU Under-23 world champion Taylor Knibb (Washington, D.C.); and nine-time ITU Triathlon World Cup medalist Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.). Click here for the complete women’s start list.

In the men’s race, Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.) is the top-ranked U.S. athlete at No. 21. Hemming was the top U.S. finisher in the men’s race at the 2018 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Gold Coast, Australia, and he earned his first career ITU World Cup victory last month.

Also racing is Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.), who, after a standout collegiate running career at the University of Colorado, was recruited to the sport of triathlon just three years ago by way of the USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program. Pearson earned his first ITU World Cup medal, a silver, in June.

Rounding out the top-25 on the start list is Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.). In June, McElroy earned a WTS silver medal in Leeds, England, becoming just the second U.S. man in history — and the first since Jarrod Shoemaker in 2009 — to medal in a WTS race.

Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D.), who earned his first ITU World Cup medal in February, and Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.), a five-time ITU World Cup medalist, complete the U.S. men’s contingent. Click here for the complete men’s start list.

ITU Paratriathlon World Cup

The ITU Paratriathlon World Cup, while not a direct auto-selection event, gives athletes a valuable opportunity to earn points toward qualification for the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Should an athlete win both the Tokyo ITU Paratriathlon World Cup and the ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in September, he or she will be named to the 2020 U.S. Paralympic Team pending the U.S. earning a country slot in that medal event.

Twelve U.S. elite paratriathletes are set to race in Tokyo, including four 2016 Paralympians in triathlon: gold medalists Allysa Seely (Glendale, Ariz., PTS2) and Grace Norman (Cedarville, Ohio, PTS5); silver medalist Hailey Danz (Wauwatosa, Wis., PTS2); and fourth-place finisher Mark Barr (Davis, Calif., PTS2). 

Additionally, three paratriathletes on the start list have represented the U.S. at the Paralympic Games in other sports: Aaron Scheidies (Seattle, Wash., PTVI), road cycling; Joshua Sweeney (Hillsboro, Ore., PTWC), sled hockey; and Kendall Gretsch (Colorado Springs, Colo., PTWC), Nordic skiing.

Seely and Danz are currently ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the women’s PTS2 category. Seely, the 2018 world champion, has a seven-race winning streak in international paratriathlon competition dating back to May of last year. Norman is also ranked No. 1 in the world in the women’s PTS5 category.

ITU Mixed Relay
The Mixed Relay event showcases the fast-paced race format that will debut as a medal event at the Tokyo 2020 Games. Teams are comprised of four athletes from the same country — two men and two women — who each complete a 300m swim, 7.4k bike and 2k run before handing off to the next teammate. Teams from 23 nations are set to compete, and the U.S. holds the No. 4 seed. The four U.S. athletes who will comprise the mixed relay team will be determined following the individual men’s race. 

For more information about the Tokyo ITU World Olympic Qualification Event, including course maps and a detailed daily schedule, visit triathlon-tokyo-2019.org.

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 at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors — as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation — 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 & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).