YOKOHAMA, Japan — Kyle Coon (Colorado Springs, Colo.), Kendall Gretsch (Downers Grove, Ill.), Melissa Stockwell (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Kelly Elmlinger (San Antonio, Texas) won gold medals Saturday in Yokohama, Japan, at the World Triathlon Para Series opener, demonstrating their fitness just over 100 days out from this summer’s Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Adam Popp (Arlington, Va.) added to the U.S. medal tally with a bronze.
While Yokohama is not an auto-qualifier for the 2020 U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team, the race was a chance for athletes to earn valuable points toward their Paralympic ranking — which helps the U.S. team earn country quota slots for the Paralympic Games and may factor into discretionary selection for the U.S. Paralympic Team.
The race marked the first World Triathlon Para Series event to take place since February 2020 and was held within a strict bubble scenario, with extensive COVID-19 protocols in place in the lead-up to, during and after competition.
Elite paratriathletes completed a sprint-distance course with a 750-meter swim in the port of Yokohama, followed by a 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run on downtown city streets before finishing at Yamashita Park.
Coon and his guide, Zack Goodman (Salisbury, Md.) had the narrowest margin of victory on the day, winning the men’s PTVI category in 59 minutes, 45 seconds — just nine seconds clear of silver medalist Jose Luis García Serrano of Spain. The win was Coon’s first on the World Triathlon Para Series stage. France’s Thibaut Rigaudeau took the men’s PTVI bronze in 1:00:34. Aaron Scheidies (Seattle, Wash.) and guide Greg Billington (San Francisco, Calif.) also raced well, recording a top-five finish in 1:01:10.
Gretsch broke the tape in the women’s PTWC division with a time of 1:07:52, finishing 18 seconds ahead of Brazil’s Jessica Ferreira and almost two minutes ahead of the bronze medalist, Eva María Moral Pedrero of Spain.
Elmlinger took the win in the women’s PTS4 category with a time of 1:12:11, well clear of silver medalist Mami Tani of Japan (1:15:33) and bronze medalist Elke Van Engelen of Germany (1:21:20).
In the women’s PTS2 category, Stockwell earned her first World Triathlon Para Series victory since 2015. Her time of 1:17:42 was more than eight minutes clear of runner-up Yukako Hata of Japan (1:25:43). Russia’s Veronika Gabitova rounded out the podium in 1:35:47.
In the men’s PTS2 division, Popp earned his first career World Triathlon Para Series medal — grabbing bronze with a time of 1:12:57. Spain’s Lionel Morales was the champion in 1:08:27, and the Netherlands’ Maurits Mosink took silver in 1:10:08.
Also racing for the U.S. in Yokohama were Jamie Brown (Oceanside, Calif.), who finished fifth for the PTS4 men in 1:02:53; and Howie Sanborn (Colorado Springs, Colo.), eighth for the PTWC men in 1:08:03.
The World Triathlon Para Series heads next to Leeds, England, on Saturday, June 5.
U.S. Olympic hopefuls are also competing in Yokohama, and the elite World Triathlon Championship Series event serves as the second and final auto-qualifier for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team. Click here for the elite race preview, including a breakdown of Olympic qualification scenarios.
2021 World Triathlon Para Series Yokohama
750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run | Complete Results
1. Kendall Gretsch (Downers Grove, Ill.), 1:07:52
8. Howie Sanborn (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:08:03
1. Kyle Coon (Colorado Springs, Colo.) with guide Zack Goodman (Salisbury, Md.), 59:45
5. Aaron Scheidies (Seattle, Wash.), with guide Greg Billington (San Francisco, Calif.), 1:01:10
1. Melissa Stockwell (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:17:42
3. Adam Popp (Arlington, Va.), 1:12:57
1. Kelly Elmlinger (San Antonio, Texas), 1:12:11
5. Jamie Brown (Oceanside, Calif.), 1:02:53
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 4,000 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 World Triathlon Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of World Triathlon and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).