LAUSANNE, Switzerland — U.S. athletes collected four world titles and 11 medals overall at the ITU Age Group Sprint Triathlon World Championships, held Saturday in Lausanne as part of the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final.
The Sprint World Championships featured a 750-meter swim in Lake Geneva, followed by a draft-legal 20-kilometer bike and a 5-kilometer run around the city streets. Athletes qualified for Team USA by finishing in the top eight at the 2018 USA Triathlon Age Group Sprint National Championships in Cleveland, Ohio; earning a top-10 finish at the 2018 USA Triathlon Draft-Legal National Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida; or placing near the top of the USA Triathlon year-end rankings for their respective age groups.
Team USA’s four world champions included: Robert Skaggs (Solana Beach, Calif., M50-54); Lynda Lubelczyk (Manchester, N.H., F70-74); Bob Palmatier (El Cajon, Calif., M80-84); and Wayne Fong (Chatsworth, Calif., M85-89), who successfully defended his gold medal from 2018.
“I feel awesome. This is a dream come true,” said Skaggs, for whom the race in Lausanne marked his first international ITU competition. “I’ve been dreaming of this for a year, just visualizing. And everything went well. You kind of play it over in your head, over and over again a thousand times, and then when you get here it’s like, ‘Okay, just execute’ — so I did. I loved that draft-legal, it was really fun.”
Lubelczyk earned her third age-group world title with an outstanding performance, which was in honor of her late husband.
“My husband died about a year-and-a-half ago, and I was trying to get back in the game. So, I’m doing this for my husband, my best cheerleader,” Lubelczyk said. “What we would usually do is I would go to the triathlon, and I would race. Then my husband, who had not done a lot of traveling, would meet me afterwards and we would go and do that part of the world. The best part of being a triathlete is coming to worlds. You meet so many people, it’s a wonderful thing, and I just love to travel.”
Melisa Christian (Dallas, Texas), the women’s 40-44 silver medalist, said racing with international competitors made for a unique dynamic on the draft-legal bike course.
“It’s fun to work with the other countries on the bike,” Christian said. “I think that’s the purity of the sport is that you can sense that you want to work together. You surpass the language barrier and just use body language, and you know, even though we’re all competitors, we’re still united in the sport. That’s the most incredible part of it all that I never would have expected.”
Philip Friedman (Erie, Pa.) returned to the worlds podium, earning back-to-back silver medals in the men’s 65-69 age group. Friedman said the connections made with fellow athletes are what makes competing for Team USA so rewarding.
“It’s a great experience. You develop friendships with people all over the world and from the United States, and it’s fun to compete with them,” Friedman said. “The older you get, the fewer people there are competing, so you get to know everybody. I developed a really close friendship with a lot of Australians. In fact, I spent a week training with them in the French Alps last week — it was me and eight Aussies.”
Todd Buckingham (Big Rapids, Mich.) went into Saturday’s race with a gold medal on his mind, having swept both the sprint and standard-distance world titles in 2018. After crashing twice and having a mechanical issue on the bike, he still ran his way to a silver medal in the men’s 30-34 age group.
“Competing for Team USA is about pushing through when the times get tough,” Buckingham said. “I had a lot of fellow athletes cheering me on and helping me on course after my crashes, which was amazing. Even though triathlon is an individual sport, it really felt like a team out there today.”
Additional U.S. medalists included Jonathan Mason (Fort Collins, Colo.), who was third for men 40-44; Sibyl Jacobson (New York, N.Y.) and Sandy Vanderstoep (Colorado Springs, Colo.), who took silver and bronze respectively for women 75-79; and Luise Easton (Westlake, Ohio), silver medalist in the women’s 80-84 age group.
Age-group racing continues Sunday with the Standard-Distance World Championships, which get underway at 7:15 a.m. local time (1:15 a.m. ET). More than 700 amateur athletes are representing Team USA this weekend in either the Sprint or Standard-Distance World Championships.
The races in Lausanne are held as part of the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final, which 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 more information and a complete schedule, visit lausanne.triathlon.org.
2019 ITU Sprint Triathlon World Championships
750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run — Complete Results
United States Medalists
2. Todd Buckingham (Big Rapids, Mich.), 1:03:02
2. Melisa Christian (Dallas, Texas), 1:10:59
3. Jonathan Mason (Fort Collins, Colo.), 1:04:21
1. Robert Skaggs (Solana Beach, Calif.), 1:02:41
2. Philip Friedman (Erie, Pa.), 1:15:48
1. Lynda Lubelczyk (Manchester, N.H.), 1:35:03
2. Sibyl Jacobson (New York, N.Y.), 2:03:59
3. Sandy Vanderstoep (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 2:11:58
2. Luise Easton (Westlake, Ohio), 2:43:24
1. Bob Palmatier (El Cajon, Calif.), 2:02:26
1. Wayne Fong (Chatsworth, Calif.), 5:14:43
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).