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Olympic medalist adds extra dimension to Team USA Olympic conundrum after Cagliari result

Katie Zaferes has given herself a fighting chance of achieving Olympic selection after a top result at WTCS Yokohama.

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Former world champion and Tokyo Olympic medalist Katie Zaferes looked destined to miss out on a spot at the Paris 2024 Games, but after a top finish at WTCS Cagliari, may well be in with a fighting chance.

The Maryland native, who won bronze in the individual race and silver in the mixed team relay three years ago, finished 12th in Sardinia on Saturday at the final race of the Olympic qualifying window.

Finishing as the second American behind Taylor Knibb, who has already secured her spot in Paris, could this result prove to be crucial for Zaferes when the USA selection committee choose the two women to receive discretionary places next month?

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“The final blue carpet”

After taking time away from the sport to give birth to her first child, Zaferes returned to the start line last year and had to fight hard to earn starts at the highest level of racing.

Katie Zaferes WTCS Montreal 2023 on the run
[Photo Credit: Jamos M. Schmidt / World Triathlon]

In 2023, Zaferes raced WTCS events in Abu Dhabi, Cagliari, Montreal, Hamburg, Paris and Pontevedra, finishing WTCS #17 and the fifth ranked American in her first full season back.

Fast forward to this month, the 34-year-old missed out on a spot at WTCS Yokohama, the main selection race for Team USA, but potentially redeemed herself in Cagliari at “the final blue carpet of the Olympic selection period”.

“Today I finished 12th and 2nd American, executed some parts really well and other parts I fell short of my expectations for myself. Mostly I’m proud of my fight, I finished knowing I did what I could for today, while also knowing there’s more in me.”

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Finding the hidden gems

Despite feeling as though she had underachieved in some areas, Zaferes said she was at peace with her performances, adding that she hopes this journey serves as inspiration one day for her son Kimble.

Katie Zaferes at WTCS Finals Pontevedra
[Photo Credit – World Triathlon/By_Wout]

“All the races that will be considered in selecting the Olympic team are over and there’s a peace in knowing that. It’s incredible to be a part of a really strong USA women’s contingency.

“No matter what the outcome I’m proud for coming back after having Kimble. I hope one day he’ll dare to go after dreams that aren’t easy, that sometimes feel impossible and other days feel within grasp.

“Regardless of the outcome I hope he will have a gratitude for the journey and in knowing that that is where most of the hidden gems can be found.”

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The dark horse for Team USA?

Whilst nobody was able to secure their spot on Team USA alongside Knibb at WTCS Yokohama, Taylor Spivey and Kirsten Kasper will hope that their fourth and fifth place finishes will be enough to book their tickets to Paris.

Taylor Spivey at WTCS Finals Pontevedra.
[Photo Credit – World Triathlon/Taylor Spivey]

However, the selection committee will have to take into account the fact that Zaferes beat the pair in Cagliari, and also finished ahead of Kasper at the Paris Test event last year.

On recent form, Zaferes may well have the edge over Kasper. Head-to-head, Zaferes has beaten her compatriot at five of their last seven races since WTCS Cagliari in 2023.

With Knibb a lock and Spivey looking like a near certainty given her consistency over this Olympic cycle, the final place on one of the most competitive teams in the sport looks set to come down to either Kasper or Zaferes.

Tomos Land
Written by
Tomos Land
Tomos Land is a triathlon & running journalist whose expertise lies in the professional world of short course & long distance triathlon, though he also boasts an extensive knowledge of ultra-running.
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