COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Reigning world champion Katie Zaferes, Tokyo Olympic qualifier Summer Rappaport and eight other U.S. elite triathletes are set to return to International Triathlon Union (ITU) competition this weekend at the Hamburg Wasser World Triathlon in Germany, which has been designated as the World Championships for both the individual and mixed relay race categories.
The races in Hamburg were initially scheduled to take place July 11-12, before being rescheduled to Sept. 5-6 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Saturday’s individual event was originally designated as a regular-season stop on the six-race ITU World Triathlon Series calendar, while Sunday’s mixed relay event had always been designated as the World Championships.
After all other WTS events in 2020 were canceled due to COVID-19, the ITU announced last week that the individual race in Hamburg would now also crown the individual world champions.
Hamburg is a longtime host of ITU World Triathlon Series events, but this weekend’s races will take place outside of the main city and without spectators. The main venue is Lake Stadtpark, a small island located about 10 kilometers from Hamburg’s central square. Several other safety measures are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including face coverings in all event areas when not actively racing; contact reduction for athletes, staff and volunteers; and COVID-19 testing before and after international travel.
Both the individual and mixed relay events will be broadcast live on the Olympic Channel. The elite men race Saturday, Sept. 5 at 10 a.m. ET (4 p.m. local time), followed by the elite women at noon ET (6 p.m. local time). The Mixed Relay World Championships follow on Sunday, Sept. 6, at 7:31 a.m. ET (1:31 p.m. local time).
“We all know this has been and still is a very strange year with endless challenges, and that we need to make the best decisions humanly possible in the best interest of all concerned,” said Marisol Casado, World Triathlon President and International Olympic Committee member. “We know that announcing that the World Championships title will now … be contested at the only event left on the calendar and that there is little advanced notice of this announcement, is far from ideal. We want to assure you that it is not just the best option, but the only option we have to give our athletes the chance to compete and showcase their best at this level.”
In the individual races, athletes will cover a sprint-distance 750-meter swim, 18.9-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run. In the mixed relay, each athlete on a four-person team (two men, two women) completes a super-sprint distance 300m swim, 6.5k bike and 1.7k run before tagging off to the next teammate. The mixed relay format will debut as a medal event at the postponed Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021. The U.S. is historically strong in the mixed relay format, having earned the 2016 world title, 2017 silver medal, 2018 bronze medal and a bronze at last year’s Olympic test event in Tokyo.
For most U.S. athletes, Hamburg’s races mark their first elite international event of 2020, as only one early-season ITU Triathlon World Cup had taken place before COVID-19 cancellations upended the racing circuit.
Leading the U.S. women is No. 1-ranked Zaferes (Hampstead, Md.), who has not toed the start line since capturing the overall 2019 ITU World Triathlon Series title last August in Lausanne, Switzerland. She had a dominant 2019 season, winning five of the eight WTS events and emerging as the United States’ Olympic gold-medal hopeful.
Rappaport (Thornton, Colo.), at No. 5 on the start list, is the only American to date who has locked in her spot on the U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team for the postponed Tokyo Games. She punched her ticket with a fifth-place finish at last year’s Tokyo ITU World Olympic Qualification Event, a race Zaferes did not finish due to a bike crash. Rappaport was also the bronze medalist at the 2019 Hamburg Wasser World Triathlon.
At the No. 4 position is Taylor Spivey (Redondo Beach, Calif.), who earned three WTS podiums last year and finished fourth in the series-long standings. Also racing for the U.S. women are Renée Tomlin (Ocean City, N.J.) and Erika Ackerlund (Missoula, Mont.).
On the men’s side, Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.) and Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.) are the highest-ranked U.S. athletes at No. 16 and No. 17, respectively. Both Pearson and McElroy had breakout seasons last year, highlighted by McElroy’s silver-medal finish at ITU World Triathlon Leeds — the first podium for a U.S. man in a WTS event since 2009, and the second in history. McElroy went on to earn three consecutive ITU World Cup victories to close out the 2019 season.
For Pearson, 2019 was just his second season as an elite triathlete. He captured his first two career ITU World Cup podiums, earned a career best WTS finish of sixth in Edmonton, Canada, and placed 11th as the top American man at the 2019 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne.
Also racing for the U.S. men are Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.), Seth Rider (Germantown, Tenn.) and Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.).
Complete start lists for the men’s and women’s individual races are available at triathlon.org. The four-person team rosters for the mixed relay will not be finalized until Saturday afternoon after the individual world championship race, and will be posted at triathlon.org. In total, 20 teams will compete for the ITU Mixed Relay World Championships crown.
For complete event information, schedule and course maps, visit hamburg.triathlon.org/en.
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).