EDMONTON, Alberta — Taylor Knibb dominated the World Triathlon Championship Finals Edmonton on Saturday afternoon to secure the second World Triathlon Championship Series victory of her career and a spot on the world championship podium for the first time.
Flora Duffy’s third place finish in Edmonton ensured that she becomes the first triathlete in history to be crowned both the World and Olympic Champion in the same year.
In an exciting day for the U.S. contingent, both Knibb and Taylor Spivey won their first world championship medals, while Seth Rider had a career-best result of fourth place in the elite men’s race and series placement of ninth – the highest ever by a U.S. man – and Chase McQueen was among the top 10 in the U23 World Triathlon Championship.
Knibb ends the season having raced four of the five events that counted toward the World Triathlon Championship Series and medaling in three of them. She started in May with a win in Yokohama, Japan, finished 16th at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 in late July, earned silver in Montreal last weekend and ended with a win in Edmonton. Knibb said after the final race that she channeled the energy from a disappointing finish in Tokyo toward her Montreal and Edmonton races.
In addition to the series, Knibb was part of the mixed relay team that claimed silver in the event’s Olympic debut, and two weeks ago she was runner-up at the IRONMAN 70.3 Boulder — her first-ever long-course triathlon.
“I’ve just been enjoying races and having fun and trying to execute to the best of my ability and I’m grateful for the opportunities we even have to race,” Knibb said.
Racing against herself for the majority of the nearly-two-hour race, Knibb won in Edmonton with a time of 1:54:47. France’s Leonie Perault claimed silver in 1:55:43 and 2020 Olympic champion Flora Duffy rounded out the podium in 1:56:11 to lock up her third world title with 3,861 points.
Duffy only needed a top eight performance to make the series title hers. Her finish in Edmonton gave her a record-equalling third title as World Champion, coming in the same year as her Olympic gold medal in Tokyo.
Knibb’s win boosted her two spots in the overall World Triathlon Championship Series rankings to earn silver on the world championship podium with 3,486 points. Spivey was fifth in the final race, dropping one spot in the standings but still solid enough to take bronze for her first world championship medal at 3,239 points. Spivey was fourth in the 2019 overall rankings.
At 23 years old, Knibb is the youngest athlete in the top 40 of the 2021 series rankings.
“The new blood is here and they’re on fire,” Duffy, 31, said, congratulating Knibb and Periault, 27. “It was great to see the young athletes get on the podium today – just so strong and so much talent. Everyone says they’re the future, but I think they’ve arrived and they’re definitely letting us older ones know they’re here.”
This is the first time two Americans finished on the world championship podium in six years, since 2016 Olympic champion Gwen Jorgensen and Sarah True took gold and bronze in 2015.
The United States continued to prove it has the most depth in the world in women’s triathlon with all five Americans who raced in Edmonton placing in the top 12 in the overall rankings; Great Britain is the only other nation with more than one athlete in the top 15 (three).
Less than a month from winning the Olympic bronze medal, Katie Zaferes was fourth in Edmonton and sixth in the series rankings (2,902 points). 2020 Olympian Summer Rappaport’s 16th place on the day and 1,676 points was good for 11th, while Kirsten Kasper jumped from 15th to 12th in the standings (1,630 points) after placing 10th.
With her track record so far this season, Knibb was a contender from the start of Saturday’s race.
She was second to Brazil’s Vittoria Lopes after the first of the two-lap 1,500-meter swim but edged out Lopes by the end of that leg to emerge from the water first.
A fierce competitor on the bike and in the run, Knibb then took matters into her own hands and made it a race of one faster than expected.
By the end of the first of eight laps to the 40-kilometer ride, she was leading a chase group of 10 athletes by a massive 35 seconds. Duffey, Spivey, the Netherlands’ Maya Kingma and Zaferes led that pack.
Knibb’s lead continued as the 2020 Olympian was besting the field by 50 seconds after the next lap.
Three laps into the bike and Knibb was 1 minute, 1 second ahead of Spivey, Kingma, Lopes, Germany’s Laura Lindemann, Zaferes and Great Britain’s Sophie Coldwell.
Knibb’s self-motivation never wavered as she started the four-lap, 10-kilometer run a whopping 2 minutes, 44 seconds over Kingma, who was closely trailed by Spivey, then Coldwell, Duffy, Kasper and Australia’s Natalie van Coevorden all within four seconds of the Dutchwoman.
The group racing for second made some ground on Knibb during the run, with a strong performance by Periault moving her up to a not-so-mere 1 minute, 34 seconds back with one lap remaining. Duffy was 10 seconds from Periault, finally making the podium clear as Spivey, Kingma and Coldwell were grouped together 27 seconds behind Duffy.
Finishing in 1:54:57, Knibb’s final margin of victory was 56 seconds ahead of Periault’s 1:55:43 and 1 minute, 24 seconds over Duffy (1:56:11). Zaferes and Spivey were a few seconds behind Duffy at 1:56:14 and 1:56:16, respectively.
2021 World Triathlon Championship Finals Edmonton – Elite Women
- Taylor Knibb USA 01:54:47
- Leonie Periault FRA 01:55:43
- Flora Duffy BER 01:56:11
- Katie Zaferes USA 01:56:14
- Taylor Spivey USA 01:56:16
— USA Triathlon and World Triathlon contributed to this report