Zaferes eyes destiny, Learmonth, Taylor Brown & Spivey chase World title dreams

Friday 30 August 2019

It was down the closing stages of the Gold Coast Grand Final run that the 2018 World title slipped from Katie Zaferes’ fingers. The American had delivered the most consistent of seasons, only for Vicky Holland to surge past and into a top spot that had seemed so unlikely earlier in the year.

This time around, Zaferes started her campaign with a bang and never looked back. World Series Gold in Abu Dhabi on the opening day of the season was just the start she wanted and, remarkably given how close she came to the biggest prize in 2018, her first in almost three years. That win was followed by another and then another, before silver in Leeds and a fourth gold in five attempts in Montreal.

World title form if ever there was from the woman who has improved exactly one place in the overall rankings since 2015.

But then bad luck in Hamburg left her short on points, and another bike accident in Tokyo two weeks ago was hardly the big-race preparation she would have wanted. There are few tougher or more resilient that Zaferes, however, and she knows that a safe ride and top 12 finish will guarantee her the World title, regardless of any other athletes’ results.

Those chasing her have been doing so for much of the season. Great Britain’s Jessica Learmonth has had what you could consider a ‘Zaferes’ season of old; excellent performances, plenty of podiums but no wins. Victory would put Learmonth on 5420 points, five clear of Zaferes were the American to finish in 13th place, and if she delivers her usual lightning-fast swim, that could be just the early pressure she needs to apply on the rest of the field.

Georgia Taylor Brown (GBR) has found the golden touch this year, home victory in Leeds followed with silver in Montreal to catapult her into contention. Third overall in the 2018 rankings, victory in Lausanne and a 15th place finish for Zaferes would mean an incredible World title for the 25-year-old.

The final contender for overall glory, USA’s Taylor Spivey, would need several results to go her way to have a shot at the World title, but another strong year has seen her build on her breakthrough campaign in 2018. Spivey hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in a WTS race in 2019, landing silver in Abu Dhabi and bronze in Yokohama to leave her well placed for at least an overall podium.

As with the men, the Grand Final start list is full of athletes for whom gold is very much in their reach, however. Last year it was Ashleigh Gentle (AUS) who rose to the occasion and powered to take the tape and send the home fans wild. The Swiss Olympic legend Nicola Spirig is just the kind of athlete who could deliver the headlines again this time around.

There are several ahead of her in terms of form, however, Non Stanford (GBR) having won in style in Hamburg to show she is back to her best over a 10km run. Summer Rappaport became the first American to book her place at Tokyo 2020 two weeks ago and with the pressure of qualification off her shoulders, could deliver another big show on Saturday.

Then, of course, there is Flora Duffy, the woman who stormed to two World titles before injury cut short her 2018 campaign, only to bounce back with a typically imperious display in the tough conditions of the Tokyo Test Event. Plus, the Lausanne course will suit her down to the ground.

The 1.5km lake swim is straightforward, but two sharp climbs in the middle of the 40km bike course will take their toll over the seven laps, before the 10km run passes the grandstands three times, settling the 2019 championship race at the end of lap four.

Of course, you can watch all the weekend’s racing from Switzerland - including Paratriathlon, Junior and U23 World Championships and the Junior/U23 Mixed Relay - on TriathlonLIVE.tv. With interactive camera selection and Spanish commentary for the first time, you can grab a pass for just $2 using the code World_Champs19.

by Doug Gray ITU Triathlon


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