TOKYO — The U.S. Mixed Relay squad of Summer Rappaport, Seth Rider, Tamara Gorman and Ben Kanute teamed up to earn a bronze medal Sunday at the ITU World Triathlon Mixed Relay Series stop in Tokyo, showcasing the thrilling race format that will debut as a medal event at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
The race was held as part of the Tokyo ITU World Olympic Qualification Event, which also included elite women’s and men’s races as well as an ITU Paratriathlon World Cup. All races were held at Odaiba Marine Park, the triathlon venue for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
In the mixed relay format, each athlete completes a 300-meter swim, 7.4-kilometer bike and 2-kilometer run before tagging off to the next teammate, alternating women and men. The U.S. team is historically strong in mixed relays, having earned a gold medal at the 2016 ITU Mixed Relay World Championships, a silver at worlds in 2017 and bronzes in 2013 and 2018.
On Sunday in Tokyo, France and Great Britain raced to a photo finish for gold and silver. France came out as the champion, as both teams recorded identical times of 1 hour, 26 minutes, 33 seconds. The U.S., anchored by 2016 U.S. Olympian Kanute (Phoenix, Ariz.), collected the bronze medal in 1:27:09. Teams from 21 countries participated.
Rappaport (Thornton, Colo.), who qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team with a fifth-place finish in the women’s elite race earlier this week, kicked things off for the U.S. She was second out of the water behind Great Britain’s Jessica Learmonth, and the two women worked together for the majority of the bike. Learmonth broke away from Rappaport late in the second lap of the bike, and she built that lead on the run — tagging off to teammate Gordon Benson with about a 20-second gap.
Meanwhile, France’s Cassandre Beaugrand and Germany’s Laura Lindemann executed strong runs, coming into the tag zone just a step ahead of Rappaport.
Rider (Germantown, Tenn.) was next for the U.S., working his way into third place on the swim. While Benson rode solo off the front, Rider worked together with France’s Pierre Le Corre, Germany’s Valentin Wernz and Italy’s Gialnuca Pozzatti.
At the handoff to Gorman (Rapid City, S.D.), Rider was step-for-step with Pozzatti and Belgium’s Jelle Geens, while the British team still held a 16-second lead. Gorman swam well, hitting the bike leg alongside Italy’s Alice Betto and France’s Leonie Periault. Then on the run, Gorman and Periault started to reel in Great Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown, cutting her lead down to five seconds by the final handoff.
Kanute was the anchor leg for the U.S., taking off in an all-out sprint to the swim pontoon. He moved into second position on the swim, then worked with Great Britain’s Alex Yee and France’s Dorian Coninx on the bike. Kanute went for a breakaway on the last lap of the bike, but Coninx and Yee were able to cover his move. With a significant gap on the rest of the field, it was clear the podium would feature Great Britain, France and the U.S., but the final run would decide the order.
It was Coninx and Yee who had the legs to sprint, breaking the tape side-by-side in a dramatic photo finish in which France was declared the winner. Kanute crossed the line 36 seconds later for bronze.
“I love the relay,” Kanute said. “Usually I’m going off in second position, and I love every opportunity I get to go off in the fourth position and anchor it. My team set me up great today, so that was a lot of fun to be fighting it out at the front. I went for it a few times. I think we did a good job early on of locking in the podium, so we got to take chances and have a little bit riskier of a race strategy. It ended up not going our way, but we still got ourselves on the podium.”
As the first athlete to qualify for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team, Rappaport savored the opportunity to test out the mixed relay course should she be selected to race for the U.S. team in the inaugural Olympic event next year.
“I’m definitely hoping to be on the relay next year (at the Olympic Games). We have so many strong team members, so no matter who’s on the team, we’re going to have a great relay,” Rappaport said. “It was really exciting to go out there and race with these guys today and get on the podium.”
In addition to the bronze in Tokyo, the U.S. team has reached the podium in two other ITU World Mixed Relay Series stops this season — a silver in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and a bronze in Edmonton, Alberta. The team has been made up of a different combination of athletes in every series stop this year, allowing U.S. Olympic hopefuls to demonstrate their top-end speed and technical skills in the super-sprint format.
ITU World Triathlon Mixed Relay Series Tokyo
4x (300m swim, 7.4k bike, 2k run) — Complete Results
1. France (Beaugrand, Le Corre, Periault, Coninx), 1:26:33
2. Great Britain (Learmonth, Benson, Taylor-Brown, Yee), 1:26:33
3. United States (Rappaport, Rider, Gorman, Kanute), 1:27:09
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).