Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Taylor Knibb, Morgan Pearson set for first U.S. Olympic triathlon spots after swim in the Seine

Triathlon Seine River

Triathlon athletes dive in the Seine river with The Eiffel Tower in the background during a Test Event for the women’s triathlon for the upcoming 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, on August 17, 2023. From August 17 to 20, 2023, Paris 2024 is organising four triathlon events to test several arrangements, such as the sports operations, one year before the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The swim familiarisation event follows the cancellation on August 6 of the pre-Olympics test swimming competition due to excessive pollution which forced organisers to cancel the pre-Olympics event. (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP) (Photo by MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

Swimming competition returned to Paris’ Seine River as part of the 2024 Olympic triathlon test events on Thursday and Friday.

Brits Beth Potter and Alex Yee won the races through the French capital.

“[Potter] thus becomes the first athlete to win a sporting competition after swimming in the Seine since 2012,” organizers said.

Taylor Knibb placed fifth in Thursday’s women’s race to meet U.S. Olympic qualifying criteria. Morgan Pearson was sixth in Friday’s men’s race to do the same.

They are in line to become the first U.S. triathletes to qualify for the Paris Games should the U.S. qualify quota spots, which it is expected to do over the next year.

Knibb placed 16th in Tokyo at age 23 as the youngest U.S. Olympic triathlete since the sport was added for the 2000 Sydney Games.

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, and won the 2022 Half Ironman world title. A half Ironman is 70.3 miles. An Olympic triathlon is nearly 32 miles.

Pearson, 29, was 42nd in his Olympic debut in Tokyo. Both Knibb and Pearson were part of the U.S. silver-medal winning team in the mixed relay’s Olympic debut.

The triathlon test event took place in the heart of the French capital, with the swimming portion of the races starting from the bottom of the spectacular 19th century Alexandre III bridge and its golden statues.

The bike and run laps went through some of the most prestigious neighborhoods of the capital city, including down the Champs-Elysees. Fans can attend the event for free.

“What a special place to be in,” said American Katie Zaferes, who finished 21st. “It was a good way to hopefully be here next year and get a preview of the course.”

It’s expected that more U.S. triathletes will qualify for Paris over the next 11 months. A nation can qualify up to three quota spots per gender, and the U.S. has qualified three women and at least two men for every Olympics.

Gwen Jorgensen, the 2016 Olympic triathlon champion coming back after six years out of the sport, was not among the five U.S. women in Thursday’s field. Jorgensen had her second child in October, then returned to international competition in February and worked her way up to the top-level World Series.

The Seine was originally scheduled to host an open-water swimming test event for the Paris Games two weeks ago. That was canceled after above-average rainfall caused the water quality to dip below acceptable standards for safeguarding swimmers’ health.

French triathlete Cassandre Beaugrand, who placed second on Thursday, didn’t show concerns about the water quality.

“We are used to swim in much worse waters,” she said.

The site will host some swimming events for both the Olympics and Paralympics.

“I was on the podium with the ladies this morning, and they told me it’s probably the best triathlon they ever competed in,” Paris organizing committee president Tony Estanguet said. “For us, it’s the best demonstration that the work done so far is very positive and we are on track to deliver a fantastic triathlon next year.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.