Newly crowned IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion Taylor Knibb looks to have called an end to her short course season after securing Olympic qualification at the Paris Test Event two weeks ago, as the versatile American stokes the fire amid Kona and an IRONMAN debut rumours.
With Knibb withdrawing from the start list at the WTCS Grand Final in Pontevedra, former World Champion Katie Zaferes will take her place, as the World #43 continues to chase Olympic qualification and re-establish herself at the top level of racing following the birth of her first child.
Following eighth place at the first round of the Super League Triathlon Championship Series over the weekend, Zaferes now has an action-packed racing schedule lined up, with Super League races in Toulouse and Malibu sandwiching the Grand Final at the end of the month in Spain.
Another shot at Olympic qualification
For Zaferes, the place on the start line at the Grand Final offers one more chance this season to secure qualification to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, with the Team USA selection policy, which prioritised the Test Event, offering selection through their Tier 2 criteria which requires a podium finish in Pontevedra.
After starting her comeback with 37th at WTCS Abu Dhabi and then three consecutive Americas Triathlon Cup podiums in Sarasota, Missouri and Punta Cana, Zaferes steadily improved throughout the year to secure spots at further WTCS races, the Olympic Test Event and now the Grand Final.
With a top finish of fifth at WTCS Montreal in June, a podium is in reach for Zaferes in Pontevedra and her participation in the Super League Championship Series may give her the race sharpness and preparedness needed to race at her best in Spain and give the Tokyo Olympic Individual Bronze medalist a shot at another podium next summer.
However, she will be competing against not only a world class field with agendas of their own in Pontevedra but also a strong cast of American women, all of whom have an eye on achieving selection to the Games in Paris. In particular, Olympian Summer Rappaport, World #3 Taylor Spivey and World #18 Kirsten Kasper will be there to push Zaferes all the way.
Whatever ends up happening, this sub-plot of the women’s race will be incredibly interesting to watch unfold and will give a good indication, if one of the aforementioned athletes qualify, of Gwen Jorgensen’s hopes to secure an Olympic berth next year, as the 2016 Olympic Champion watches this race from the sidelines.