Periault, Pearson Dominate WTCS Yokohama

With the high pressure 2024 World Triathlon Championship Season put on hold by a bad weather cancellation in Abu Dhabj in March, the high stakes opening of this pre-Olympic season rewarded tri-fans with thrills, chills and one messy spill.

With just one French women’s Olympic triathlon slot available since Cassandre Beaugrand and Emma Lombardi locked up their tickets to Paris, Leonie Periault left no doubt who would fill out the French tri roster. When the day was over, Periault crossed the line with a whopping 36-seconds margin over runner-up Taylor Knibb of the U.S. and 40 seconds over her countrywoman Lombardi. Periault stamped her identity over the gold with a blazing fast 33:02 10k run that left her pursuers an area code in arrears.

Running up against a murderer’s row of French World Champions and up and coming Aussie stars, Morgan Pearson unleashed a scintillating 29:11 split – 17 seconds better than his best pursuer - for the concluding 10k. When he clutched the tape after his 1:42:05 performance, he held a 7 seconds advantage over runner-up Matthew Hauser and 15 seconds over third-place finisher and fellow Australian Luke Willian. Further back were French superstars Leo Bergere (4th), Vincent Luis (9th), and Tom Richard (DNF).

There was much anxiety among American women for the remaining two Olympic slots. With Taylor Knibb owning the first Olympic slot of three for the mighty U.S. gals, Knibb’s well-earned slot ironically got in the way of her teammates dreams of scoring the only sure shot available – a finish on the podium. Instead, Emma Lombardi of France to the bronze. Thus Taylor Spivey’s 4th place finish, and Kirsten Kasper’s 5th place, left them at the mercy of U.S. captain’s choice.

The Women

With a precious Olympic start on the line, it was the third most favored Frenchwoman who rose to the occasion. Pushed to the spotlight by her wicked fast run, Leonie Periault thus won her second WTCS gold, albeit the most important of her career.

After a 15th-best 18:35 swim that left her 17 seconds behind swim leader Maya Kingma and 16 seconds behind Knibb, Periault started the bike in 21st place. Over the mount line it was Lombardi first onto the bike, Vittoria Lopes, Kingma, Kasper and Summer Rappaport at plus 15 seconds while Jorgensen was 44 seconds arrears. Kingma tried to pull away early on lap two but the pack covered it.

On the first lap of the run, Periault seized the lead, 4 seconds ahead of Lombardi, 6 seconds ahead of Knibb, 7 seconds ahead of Kasper and Kate Waugh and 15 seconds ahead of Taylor Spivey and Laura Lindemann. Halfway through the 10k run, Periault smashed all resistance, putting Knibb 14 seconds adrift, Lombardi 15 seconds down, Kasper 22 seconds behind, and Spivey 30 seconds in her wake. Duffy, showing signs of exhaustion after 18 months lost in recuperation from a leg injury. By the end, Periault 33:02 run left all her nearest rivals 36 seconds behind. The only woman to top Periault’s run was Gwen Jorgensen, who fell to near the bottom of the field after the bike, but rose to 15th on a race-best 32:56 run.

Periault’s teammate Emma Lombardi was able to stay closest to Periault but the results never looked in doubt. Periault taking the gold by over 30 seconds from Knibb, Lombardi with the bronze. Spivey and Kasper finished tantalizingly close to their podium goal in fourth and fifth.


Yokohama Women

1. Leonie Periault FRA S 18:35 T1 1:05 B 59:23 T2 00:25 R 33:02 TOT 1:52:28
2. Taylor Knibb USA S 18:19 T1 1:13 B 59:31 T2 00:32 R 33:31 TOT 1:53:04
3. Emma Lombardi FRA S 18:20 T1 1:05 B 59:37 T2 00:23 R 33:45 TOT 1:53:08
4. Taylor Spivey USA S 18:21 T1 1:07 B 59:35 T2 00:23 R 34:00 TOT 1:53:25
5. Kirsten Kasper USA S 18:20 T1 1:09 B 59:34 T2 00:29 R 34:04 TOT 1:53:34
6. Anna Godoy Contreras ESP S 18:27 T1 1:08 B 59:30 T2 00:25 R 34:08
7. Flora Duffy BER S 18:21 T1 1:08 B 59:35 T2 00:25 R 34:12 TOT 1:53:38
8. Djenyfer Arnold BRA S 18:24 T1 1:09 B 59:31 T2 00:26 R 34:15 TOT 1:53:43
9. Laura Lindemann GER S 18:23 T1 1:10 B 59:30 T2 00:27 R 34:46 TOT 1:54:00
10. Kate Waugh GBR S 18:26 T1 1:03 B 59:33 T2 00:24 R 34:46 TOT 1:54:11

Yokohama Men

Like the WTCS Yokohama women’s race, the men’s win came down to who had the hottest hand on the run. After a sizzling, race-best 29:11 10k split to the finish, Morgan Pearson won the men’s WTCS Yokohama and thus became the second American male to ever earn a gold medal in a top tier series event. Pearson thus finished in 1:42:05 and earned a 7 seconds margin of victory over Matthew Hauser of Australia and 15 seconds over third place finisher and fellow Australian Luke Willian.

On a sunny day that encouraged the riders to join in a massive pack that did not allow for breakaways, NASCAR-style crashes became inevitable. The smaller incidents shuffled the deck and were climaxed by a last lap smasher that took out Dorian Coninx, Vasco Vilaca and Tom Richard, while Morgan Pearson and Luke Willian escaped out the front. Pearson and Willian jetted out front of the field ostensibly to duel for the gold. But Aussie Matt Hauser broke up the party near the end, passing Willian for the silver, and freeing Pearson to escape with the gold,

Unfazed with his demotion to bronze, Willian delighted in his first ever WTCS podium and news that his qualification for the Paris Olympics was confirmed.
“I knew I could win one of these, but these guys are beasts and training just as hard as me,” Pearson told Triathlon Media. “Everyone wants to win. You can be in the shape of your life and still have things go wrong or someone be fitter. You just have to show up and give it your best and today my best was good enough.”

Pearson took extra satisfaction that he had left lingering injuries behind. “Last year I had some back problems and I did Miami to do an Olympic distance and test my health rather than Abu Dhabi. This is a nice way to start the season but of course we all know who is missing today and it’s still a long way to Paris.”

As a sign of crowded conditions to come on the bike, things started to get crowded on the swim. Altogether 33 men clotted together on a long train coming into transition including David Castro Fajardo, and Antonio Serrat Seoane 45 seconds back and joining Jelle Geens and Matthew McElroy. As the crowd increased to 50, Canadan Tyler Mislawchuk and Henry Schoeman of South Africa collided and fell down in a heap.

When Paquet dropped, the lead increased to 15 seconds to the lead duo. two, but cue the rise of Matt Hauser, reeling in his teammate with a fourth lap as Pearson found another gear to find daylight out front. Nearing the end Pearson pulled clear to the tape, Hauser moved to silver. He and Willian making it two Australian men on a Series podium for the first time.

“Really proud of myself over the past couple of years after struggling with the consistency coming up from Junior and U23 so,” Hauser told World Triathlon. “So, it’s great to have these results.” “I heard a lot of noise at the crash and wanted to stay out the front but I hope everyone is okay. There’s so much at stake and people’s Olympic spots and dreams are on the line, but days like these make it all worthwhile.”

WTCS Yokohama Men’s Results

1. Morgan Pearson USA S 17:51 T1 00:52 B 53:47 T2 00:27 R 29:11 TOT 1:42:05
2. Matthew Hauser AUS S 17:42 T1 00:54 B 53:49 T2 00:21 R 29:29 TOT 1:42:12
3. Luke Willian AUS S 17:53 T1 00:55 B 53:37 T2 00:21 R 29:35 TOT 1:42:20
4. Leo Bergere FRA S 17:49 T1 00:55 B 53:40 T2 00:21 R 29:43 TOT 1:42:26
5. Charles Paquet CAN S 17:55 T1 00:54 B 53:34 T2 00:26 R 29:43 TOT 1:42:30
6. Marten Van Riel BELG S 17:52 T1 1:00 B 53:31 T2 00:24 R 29:49 TOT 1:42:34
7. Kenji Nener JPN S 17:44 T1 00:54 B 53:46 T2 00:22 R 29:53 TOT 1:42:36
8. Miguel Hidalgo BRA S 17:46 T1 00:55 B 54:09 T2 00:21 R 29:28 TOT 1:42:38
9. Vincent Luis FRA S 17:39 T1 00:58 B 53:45 T2 oo:21 R 29:58 TOT 1:42:40
10. Kristian Blummenfelt NOR S 17:55 T1 00:56 B 53:31 T2 00:25 R 30:02 TOT 1:42:46