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Spivey, Kasper, Rider round out U.S. Olympic triathlon team for Paris

Triathletes Taylor Spivey, Kirsten Kasper and Seth Rider are headed to their first Olympics, completing the U.S. team for Paris.

They join Taylor Knibb and Morgan Pearson, who previously qualified by finishing in the top eight at the Olympic test event in Paris last August.

Spivey, Kasper and Rider were chosen by a USA Triathlon selection committee. Selections were made based on results during the Olympic qualification period over the last two years.

The top American women in this season’s World Series rankings are Knibb (second in the world), Spivey (sixth) and Kasper (11th).

LIST: U.S. athletes qualified for Paris Olympics

Spivey and Kasper bolstered their Olympic chances by placing fourth and fifth at a World Series stop in Yokohama, Japan, on May 11. If one had made the podium there, she would have automatically qualified for Paris.

But then Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Katie Zaferes beat both Spivey and Kasper at the most recent World Series stop on May 25 in Cagliari, Italy.

Zaferes, who returned to competition in March 2023 after July 2022 childbirth, placed 12th in Cagliari ahead of Spivey (15th) and Kasper (21st).

Ultimately, the committee went with Spivey and Kasper over Zaferes.

Three years ago at this time, Zaferes and Spivey were ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the world, but only one spot was left on the U.S. Olympic team. Zaferes was the discretionary selection that time.

“Going into this Olympic cycle, I wanted to make sure I did everything I could to earn a spot on the team,” Spivey said, according to USA Triathlon. “In 2020, I was so close and felt like it was within reach and it was so heartbreaking that I wasn’t selected.”

After Spivey, Kasper was the next-highest ranked American to miss the team for Tokyo.

“This is my third time trying to make the Olympic team and this really shows that dreams do come true,” Kasper said, according to USA Triathlon.

Gwen Jorgensen, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist, ended a six-year triathlon retirement in early 2023 to bid for the Paris Games.

She placed 15th in Yokohama and is ranked 23rd in the world, three spots behind Zaferes.

On the men’s side, Rider is ranked 26th overall and third among Americans in this season’s World Series behind Pearson and Matt McElroy.

Rider, 27, competed at the 2014 Youth Olympics and was part of a bronze-medal-winning U.S. team at the 2022 Mixed Relay World Championships.

“In 2014 I represented the U.S. at the Youth Olympic Games and it felt like a miniature Olympics,” Rider said, according to USA Triathlon. “That’s what really sparked my Olympic dream. It’s crazy to have something that I’ve been thinking about and dreaming about daily for the past 10 years become a reality. I still don’t think it’s hit me.”

McElroy just missed the team for a second consecutive Olympics.

“Never give up,” was posted on his Instagram later Wednesday afternoon.

Three years ago, McElroy was also in contention for the last U.S. Olympic men’s spot that ultimately went to Kevin McDowell.

McDowell then placed sixth in Tokyo, the best finish for a U.S. man since triathlon made its Olympic debut in 2000. Knibb, Pearson, McDowell and Zaferes also combined to take silver in the first Olympic triathlon relay event.

McDowell competed in two World Series events since the start of 2023, failing to finish one in March 2023 and placing 47th in Yokohama on May 11. He was set back by sickness, injuries and September surgery for a torn ankle ligament.

Globally, French triathletes have impressed going into a home Games.

Leo Bergere is ranked No. 1 in the world for the men, though he is No. 5 in this season’s World Series standings that are topped by Australian Luke Willian.

France’s Emma Lombardi leads this season’s women’s World Series standings, while countrywoman Cassandre Beaugrand is No. 2 in the overall world rankings.

France has never won an individual Olympic triathlon medal.

Tokyo Olympic champions Flora Duffy (Bermuda’s first gold medalist in any sport) and Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway are expected to defend their titles in Paris.

Last month, Duffy finished her first two Olympic-distance triathlons since 2022, placing seventh and eighth in Yokohama and Cagliari.

She missed time due to knee injuries and has said she plans to move up to longer distance triathlons after her fifth and final Olympics in Paris.

Blummenfelt won the May 2022 Ironman World Championship then moved back down to the Olympic distance with a best World Series finish of fifth.

Triathlon at the Paris Games will start in the heart of the city with the swimming leg in the Seine River.