Born in the state of Maryland in 1989, Katie Zaferes’ impressive triathlon career most recently brought her two medals at the Tokyo Olympic Games – a testament to her consistent improvement and high performance levels.
A natural athlete, Katie enjoyed soccer and lacrosse as a youngster but excelled in cross country races and track and field events at her high school in Hampstead. She would win multiple state championships as she earned a place at Syracuse University. Once there, she continued to haul in the accolades by setting the school record for the outdoor 3,000m steeplechase and indoor 5,000m run.
After being spotted by USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program founder Barb Lindquist and being talked into the sport by her dad, she ventured into the world of professional triathlon in 2013. Katie’s ability quickly caught the eye – her early performances saw her named USA Triathlon Elite Rookie of the Year.
Further titles piled up as she progressed as a triathlete over the years which followed, with her medals in Tokyo and overall victory in the ITU World Triathlon Series in 2019 the crowning moments so far.
As with any professional athlete though, there have been some tough moments for Zaferes to endure – notably in August 2019 when she suffered a horrific bike crash during the ITU Olympic Qualifying Event in Tokyo. The accident, which saw her collide with a concrete barrier at a speed of nearly 40 km/hour, left her with a broken nose while she also required 23 stitches to reconstruct her lower set of teeth.
Such was her grit and determination, Zaferes was competing again just 17 days later. She wasn’t simply participating either – she returned to claim victory at the World Triathlon Series Grand Final in Lausanne and sealed her first World Triathlon Series title.
Olympic success in Tokyo also came on the back of personal trauma for Katie, just a few short months after the sudden death of her father.
Career record and results
Katie’s debut year in professional triathlon saw her top the podium at the season finale of the 2013 USA Triathlon Super Sprint Series in San Diego, before she won the Kelowna PATCO Sprint Triathlon Premium Pan American Cup in 2014.
After finishing fifth overall in the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Series, the gradual improvement over the years that followed was glaringly obvious. She bettered her overall result by one position each year, finishing fourth in 2016, third in 2017 and second in 2018.
She finally clinched her maiden overall victory in 2019 as she produced a sensational display at that ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland. Zaferes dug deep to come out on top after an enthralling battle with Britain’s Jess Learmonth to claim gold.
Zaferes has also enjoyed success in ITU relay events – she was part of teams which picked up silver medals at the Triathlon Mixed Relay World Championships in 2017 and 2020, as well as bronze in 2018.
Katie Zaferes at the Olympics
After registering six podium finishes in ITU World Triathlon Series events during the 2015 season, Zaferes was named as the final member of Team USA’s triathlon team for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. She would however, in her own words, ‘fall short of her goals’ as she came home in 18th place – more than four minutes behind compatriot and winner Gwen Jorgensen.
But with several more titles under her belt and further experience competing at the pinnacle of triathlon, Zaferes headed into the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with a renewed sense of optimism in the summer of 2021.
Getting the nod for Team USA ahead of Taylor Spivey, who was ranked #3 in the 2021 WTCS rankings, added pressure on Zaferes to deliver an improved performance on her Rio showing to justify the selectors’ confidence in her.
And justify it she did, securing a bronze medal in the individual women’s race before helping Team USA to an impressive silver in the inaugural Olympic Mixed Relay event.
A Super League Triathlon star
Katie has taken Super League Triathlon by storm since its inception. She finished 37 points clear of Rachel Klamer as she claimed the championship title in its inaugural edition in 2018. Zaferes kickstarted that campaign by clinching victory in Jersey, before reigning supreme once again in Malta. Second-place finishes in Mallorca and Singapore were enough to secure the title.
Katie would edge out Klamer once again the following year as she secured back-to-back Super League titles, finishing two points clear of the Dutch athlete. She was second at the Jersey event that year, but a win in Malta was enough to see her finish top of the overall standings again.
While 2021 wouldn’t bring a third title for Zaferes, she once again challenged at the top end of the field, finishing third overall as she picked up fourth places at the London and Munich events as well as a podium in Malibu. Consistency personified once again.
Katie Zaferes family
Katie’s parents were both keen athletes in their youth, with her father Bill Hursey playing for the high school football team and her mother Mary Lynn competing for the running team.
Bill tragically passed away aged 60 in April 2021 as Katie was preparing for the Tokyo Olympics, which she described as ‘the hardest thing she has ever been through’.
Katie is married to Tommy Zaferes, who was an Olympic trials swimmer before becoming a professional triathlete.
During his racing days, Tommy picked up ITU World Cup podiums at Tongyeong, Palamos and Tiszaujvaros, and took part in Super League Triathlon events. He has since moved away from participating in triathlon events and has taken up the role of a professional photographer at races.
Katie Zaferes gear
Katie’s wetsuit provider is ROKA, meaning her races get under way with her sporting the freshly designed Maverick X2.
Her bike leg sees her mount a Specialized bike thanks to her sponsorship deal with the world-renowned brand, while her run is supported by 361° Running shoes.