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U.S. Olympic triathlon team finalized with a world champion and a cancer survivor

AJ Bell World Triathlon - Leeds

LEEDS, ENGLAND - JUNE 09: Katie Zaferes of USA celebrates winning the Triathlon leader during the AJ Bell World Triathlon - Leeds on June 09, 2019 in Leeds, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

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Katie Zaferes, the 2019 World champion, and Kevin McDowell, a cancer survivor, complete the five-member U.S. Olympic triathlon team.

USA Triathlon announced its two discretionary picks for Tokyo on Wednesday. Zaferes and McDowell join the already qualified Summer Rappaport, Taylor Knibb and Morgan Pearson.

Zaferes, who entered the Rio Games as a medal threat and finished 18th, won her world title two weeks after receiving 23 stitches in her mouth following a bike crash in a 2019 Olympic qualifier in Tokyo.

Zaferes took fifth at the 2020 World Championships, which was a one-off event rather than a series of races, due to the pandemic.

She is currently ranked No. 1 in the world, just ahead of countrywoman Taylor Spivey, who did not make the Olympic team. With Rappaport and Knibb clinching places via results at specific races, only one spot was left.

In two World Series races this year, Spivey placed fourth and sixth and Zaferes placed 18th and 22nd.

McDowell, No. 29 in the men’s rankings, matched his best finish -- 11th -- on the senior World Series level in Yokohama, Japan, last month. Pearson finished third there.

McDowell, 28 years old, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2011, taking six months off to complete chemotherapy. A year later, he returned to elite competition.

Gwen Jorgensen, who in Rio became the first U.S. Olympic triathlon champion, switched to distance running after those Games.

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