In the first ITU Mixed Relay Triathlon World Championship since the IOC approved inclusion of this second triathlon event in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Australia edged defending champion United States by 4 seconds.
In the Mixed Relay format, national team members consisting of two women and two men each take on in woman-man-woman-man order a 300 meter swim, 7 kilometer bike leg and a 1.6 kilometer run.
The flat out, slam-bang short-course action characteristic of this team event came down to the final leg. After Katie Zaferes led the U.S. team to a short lead after the third leg, she handed off to her teammate Matt McElroy and he and Canadian Alexis Lepage broke away on the 300 meter swim and on to the bike leg. However, Lepage fell on the bike and took the Canadians out of contention.
With five nations contending for three medals, Team Australia’s Jacob Birtwhistle, who showed his sprint muscle in the March Super League Triathlon, stepped into the spotlight. Unleashing a second-best 19:48 leg which was much faster than his closest rivals, Birtwhistle crossed the finish line in 1:22:38 with a 4 seconds margin of victory over McElroy of the U.S. (20:28 split) and 9 seconds ahead of Jorik Van Egdom of Netherlands (20:17 split).
The win was Australia’s first Mixed Team Relay World title while the U.S. scored its third medal in the event’s 9-year history.
“I will give it to Hamburg, I love it here,” Birtwhistle told ITU media. “To come out here with the guys, we were all able to put together a good race and end up as World Champions, it is pretty awesome!”
Fellow Australian teammate Charlotte McShane said the risks and rewards of team triathlon are intense. “I feel like there is a lot more pressure on you when you race because you aren’t just racing for yourself, you are racing for your whole team,” McShane told ITU media. “But it is definitely so much fun to be able to come out here and win together.”
U.S. team member Ben Kanute was enthusiastic about the silver: “This is my favorite race every year, I love it. I get pumped up for it. It seems that each year I need a little bit of redemption from the year before, but you aren’t just racing for yourself, you are racing for your teammates and I think everyone on our team stepped up today.”
In the first leg, Yuka Sato of Japan led a tightly packed cluster in 21:12, followed 2 seconds later by Claire Michel of Belgium, Charlotte McShane of Australia and Kirsten Kasper of the U.S., and followed 1 second later by Sophie Coldwell of Great Britain and Jolanda Annen of Switzerland.
On the second round of the relay, the bike leg was crucial as Ben Kanute of the U.S. and Dorian Coninx of France broke away to an 11-seconds lead as they handed off to the women on the third round.
Sadly for the French, a penalty in the second-to-third round transition took them out of contention.
On the third round, Rachel Klamer of Netherlands’ race-best 21:21 split was just 3 seconds better than Katie Zaferes and 5 seconds better than Joanna Brown of Canada. Starting with a lead, Zaferes gave her teammate McElroy a significant advantage.
Jumping out of the gate, Canada’s Alexis Page quickly joined McElroy at the front. But once Birtwhistle got rolling, there was no stopping the Aussie Express on his way to the win.
Jorik Van Egdom of Netherlands closed with a 6th-best 20:17 final round split to take 3rd and Thomas Bishop of Great Britain posted a 5th-best 2:17 to lead Great Britain to 4th place.
Although he started with a significant deficit, Richard Murray of South Africa - the winner of the Super League Triathlon in March - unleashed a race-best 19:44 fourth round split to put his team in 7th place.
ITU Mixed Relay World Championship
July 16, 2017
4x S 300m / B 7k / R 1.6k
1. Australia (Charlotte McShane, Matthew Hauser, Ashleigh Gentle, Jacob Birtwhistle) 1:22:38
2. United States (Kirsten Kasper, Ben Kanute, Katie Zaferes, Matt McElroy) 1:22:42
3. Netherlands (Maaike Caelers, Marco van der Stel, Rachel Klamer, Jorik Van Egdom) 1:22:47
4. Great Britain (Sophie Coldwell, Gordon Benson, Lucy Hall, Thomas Bishop) 1:22:52
5. Canada (Amelie Kretz, Tyler Mislawchuk, Joanna Brown, Alexis Lepage) 1:23:04
6. France (Jeanne Lehair, Dorian Coninx, Emilie Morier, Vincent Luis) 1:23:49
7. South Africa (Gillian Sanders, Henri Schoeman, Anel Radford, Richard Murray) 1:24:05
8. Switzerland (Jolanda Annen, Andrea Salvisberg, Lisa Berger, Adrien Briffod) 1:24:08
9. New Zealand (Deborah Lynch, Ryan Sissons, Andrea Hewitt, Tony Dodds) 1:24:11
10. Germany (Anja Knapp, Moritz Horn, Laura Lindemann, Lasse Nygaard-Priester) 1:24:26