Wearing the number one bib, she was to the fore from the start, part of the front group in the swim which then distanced the rest on the bike.
Coldwell bossed the run and crossed the line 17 seconds ahead of Rosa Maria Tapia, the first Mexican woman to make the podium in a WTCS event.
Knibb stayed on well for a fine third in her comeback race, fellow US star Taylor Spivey collected another fourth place and Britain’s U23 world champion Kate Waugh registered her best finish at this level in fifth.
But there was frustration for last year’s WTCS overall runner-up Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) who was never able to threaten the podium after losing touch with the front group on the swim, eventually finishing seventh.
Her great friend Coldwell, having come second to the absent Beth Potter in the opening WTCS race of the season in Abu Dhabi, moves to the top of this season’s standings.
Meanwhile in the men’s race, Hayden Wilde ran away from his rivals to take the win – click here for that report.
Swim: Kingma sets the pace
Before the race Coldwell had posted on social media: “If you’d have told me five years ago that I’d be walking on to the pontoon of a WTCS wearing #1, I probably wouldn’t have believed you! I’m slightly terrified about wearing that number if I’m honest but I hope I can do it, and myself justice.”
And how she did just that as the first of the three disciplines ultimately shaped the race.
The wetsuit swim in the relatively calm waters in Port of Yokohama saw Maya Kingma (NED) and American duo Summer Rappaport and Knibb lead the way.
But Coldwell was just behind them as were the likes of Spivey and Waugh.
However it was strung out behind the first 12, with Taylor-Brown on the wrong side of the split, 31 seconds back.
Bike: Knibb puts power down
The leading group was quickly whittled down to seven early on the bike and it was Knibb who was driving the pace on the front.
She was one of three Americans – Spivey and Kirsten Kasper the others – along with Brits Coldwell and Waugh, plus Tapia and Kingma.
After the second of nine laps – and as the rain really started to come down – the front seven had 42 seconds on the rest.
And with Knibb animating it throughout that gap would go out and out. It was over a minute after lap four, with Taylor-Brown doing her best on the front of the chase pack to close it – but to no avail.
By the time they reached T2 the advantage was 1:32 and surely the winner would come from those seven.
Run: Coldwell takes control
Coming out of transition there was virtually nothing between Spivey and Coldwell but the Brit wasted no time at all in moving to the head of affairs.
And in truth she was never threatened. After the first of four 2.5km laps she was six seconds ahead of Knibb and looking super smooth.
At halfway she was 24 seconds to the good, with Knibb still her closest challenger and just a second between Spivey, Tapia and Waugh in third, fourth and fifth.
From that point onwards Coldwell was in control but Tapia was looking best of those in behind her and moved ahead of Knibb on the third lap.
And those were the positions crossing the line – Coldwell stopping the clock in 1:53:32, with Tapia claiming an historic second place for Mexico 17 seconds back and Knibb rounding out the podium in third on a superb return from injury.
Taylor-Brown was only able to make up one place on the run such was her deficit after the bike, taking seventh.
WTCS Yokohama 2023 Results
Saturday May 13 2023 – ELITE WOMEN
1.5km / 40k / 10k
- 1. Sophie Coldwell (GBR) 1:53:32
- 2. Rosa Maria Tapia (MEX) 1:53:49
- 3. Taylor Knibb (USA) 1:54:02
- 4. Taylor Spivey (USA) 1:54:14
- 5. Kate Waugh (GBR) 1:54:20
- 6. Maya Kingma (NED) 1:54:40
- 7. Georgia Taylor-Brown (GBR) 1:54:48
- 8. Kirsten Kasper (USA) 1:55:03
- 9. Emma Lombardi (FRA) 1:55:10
- 10. Summer Rappaport (USA) 1:55:30
WTCS Rankings Standings after Yokohama
- 1. Sophie Coldwell (GBR) 1693.75pts
- 2. Taylor Spivey (USA) 1433.17pts
- 3. Rosa Maria Tapia (MEX) 1157.91pts
- 4. Summer Rappaport (USA) 1089.35pts
- 5. Emma Lombardi (FRA) 970.52pts