Lukas Verzbicas of the United States dedicated his win at the ITU Junior World Championship in Beijing Sunday to his ill teammate Kevin McDowell, who suffers from Hodgkins' lymphoma.
The gold medal performance earned the United States its second junior world title.
Verzbicas came out of the water 10th in the crucial lead pack that included the USA's Ben Canute and six others. After entering T2 with six other junior men, Verzbicas was content to run at the back of the lead pack until he made a surge at the midway point of the 5k run at which point he led by 6 seconds at the halfway point.
From that point on, Verzbicas gradually increased the pressure until he stretched the lead to a comfortable margin at the line.
An American flag draped on his shoulders, Verzbicas was met by McDowell at the finish line. "It couldn't have been a better day. It was the perfect ending," McDowell told USAT media. McDowell said he will return to training in the near future. "I truly believed Lukas could do it, and he made it happen. The whole ride and journey through this entire thing has been incredible. I will never trade it for anything."
Verzbicas finished in 56 minutes 21 seconds to top runner-up Justus Nieschlag of Germany by 33 seconds. Fellow United States competitor Tony Smoragiewicz filled out the podium, taking third five seconds behind Nieschlag.
Smoragiewicz charged from 5th to 3rd with the day's fastest 5k run - 15:31. "Coming into this last stretch I was in fifth, and I said I'd be thinking of this race for the rest of the year and wouldn't be happy with it if I finished fifth," said Smoragiewicz. "That gave me the extra energy to get up there."
ITU Junior World Championship
September 11, 2011
S750m / B 20k / R 5k
Junior elite men
1. Lukas Verzbicas (USA) 56:21
2. Justus Nieschlag (GER) 56:54
3. Tony Smoragiewicz (USA) 56:59
4. Ron Darmon (ISR) 57:06
5. Matt Brown (AUS) 57:11
6. Matthias Steinwandter (ITA) 57:19
7. Alois Knabl (AUT) 57:28
8. David Pap (HUN) 57:30
9. Raphael Montoya (FRA) 57:35
10. Gordon Benson (GBR) 57:37
13. Ben Kanute (USA) 57:43.