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Triathletes Taylor Knibb, Morgan Pearson qualify for U.S. Olympic team

Taylor Knibb

Taylor Knibb and Morgan Pearson qualified for the U.S. Olympic triathlon team with podium finishes at a World Series event in Yokohama, Japan, on Saturday.

Knibb, at 23 set to become the youngest U.S. Olympic triathlete since the sport was added in 2000, led an American one-two in the women’s race with Summer Rappaport, who in 2019 became the first U.S. triathlete to qualify for Tokyo.

“I wasn’t really thinking about [the Olympics],” Knibb said, according to USA Triathlon. “I was just trying to get to the finish line.”

Knibb and Rappaport will be joined on the Olympic team by one more woman, a committee discretionary selection. A prime candidate is Katie Zaferes, the discretionary selection in 2016 who was the top American in the World Series in 2017, 2018 and 2019, winning the world title in 2019.

Zaferes was 22nd on Saturday, behind countrywomen Taylor Spivey (fourth) and Kirsten Kasper (14th), competing a little more than a month after her father’s death.

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Olympics across all sports

Knibb won world junior titles in 2016 and 2017 and the 2018 Under-23 World Championships. She also ran and swam for Cornell, graduating in 2020. On the top World Series level, she became the youngest medalist in 2017 and on Saturday notched her first victory.

Later Saturday, Pearson finished third in the men’s race to become the third American man to make a World Series podium. It came in just his 11th World Series start since becoming an elite triathlete in 2017 and after he took March off due to the death of older brother Andrew.

“He gave me the boost I needed today, and I was just thinking about him,” Pearson said, according to USA Triathlon. “Hopefully when I’m at the Olympics, he’ll be there with me.”

Up to two more U.S. men can be named to the Olympic team via discretionary selection if the U.S. has men ranked in the world top 30 come June 14. In addition to Pearson (No. 16), Matt McElroy is currently ranked 19th and Eli Hemming 28th.

Pearson, 27, grew up a swimmer and ocean lifeguard and ran track and cross-country at Colorado. He was brought into the sport by USA Triathlon’s Collegiate Recruitment Program, which identifies top NCAA swimmers and runners who have triathlon potential. Program alums include Rio Olympic champion Gwen Jorgensen and former college steeplechaser Zaferes.

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