ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The ITU World Mixed Relay Series opened Saturday with the U.S. team of Taylor Spivey, Ben Kanute, Katie Zaferes and Eli Hemming claiming the silver medal in a close race with the race-winning team from Australia.
The Americans combined for a total time of 1 hour, 24 minutes, 21 seconds, with each athlete completing a 300-meter swim, 7.6-kilometer bike and 1.5-kilometer run before tagging the next competitor. The Australian team made its move on the final run leg, taking home the win in the series season opener in 1:24:16. Team New Zealand rounded out the podium in 1:24:31.
Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.) led off for the U.S., using her cycling skills to break away from the pack and start the run solo with a 20-second lead. While chasers from Italy, Australia and Germany closed Spivey’s gap slightly on the 1.5k run, the U.S. had the edge at the tag point.
Kanute (Phoenix, Ariz.), also a known powerhouse on the bike, then took to the course, keeping the U.S. at the front of the field with a solo break on the bike. Again, the U.S. was challenged by quick run legs from the German and Australian teams, but Kanute pushed through on the run to give Friday’s ITU World Triathlon Series individual race winner Zaferes a solid position to start.
Once on the course, Zaferes (Santa Cruz, Calif.) held nothing back, breaking away with Australia’s Emma Jeffcoat on the swim and the bike before pulling away on the run with a nearly 20-second lead heading into the final leg.
This set Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.) up to claim a medal, with Australia in closest contact at the start of the bike, while France, Germany and Italy were more than 40 seconds back. Hemming and Australia’s Jake Birtwhistle entered the final transition together, with just the 1.5k run to go. Hemming stayed strong throughout the run despite being unable to catch Birtwhistle, ensuring the U.S. would take home the silver.
“Not a guy you want chasing you down,” Hemming said of Birtwhistle after the race. “Overall it was pretty good though. Can’t be upset with this early in the season, racing well, so I’m happy with it.”
“It’s so awesome that we have such a strong American team that we can change it up and feel pretty confident no matter what person is on what leg,” Zaferes said. “It’s really exciting just to put together such a strong group.”
The ITU World Mixed Relay Series debuted in 2018 and will continue on June 15 in Nottingham, England, followed by Hamburg on July 7 for the ITU Mixed Relay World Championships, and Edmonton on July 21.
The series showcases the fast-paced mixed relay race format ahead of its inclusion as a medal event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. At each event, teams earn points to bolster their nation’s Mixed Relay Olympic qualification ranking.
2019 Daman ITU World Triathlon Mixed Relay Series Abu Dhabi
4x300m swim, 7.6k bike, 1.5k run
1. Australia, 1:24:16
2. United States (Taylor Spivey, Ben Kanute, Katie Zaferes, Eli Hemming), 1:24:21
3. New Zealand, 1:24:31
4. France, 1:24:39
5. Germany, 1:24:41
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 Committee (USOC).