YOKOHAMA, Japan -- 2016 U.S. Olympic qualifier Gwen Jorgensen returned to the top of the podium on Saturday at ITU World Triathlon Yokohama, while Joe Maloy, Greg Billington and Ben Kanute all met the qualification standards to compete in the Olympic Games this summer in Rio.
Gwen Jorgensen has won in Yokohama for four consecutive years. (Delly Carr/ITU)
Jorgensen (St. Paul, Minn.) finished more than a minute clear of the field on the 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike, 10-kilometer run course to log her fourth consecutive win in Yokohama in 1 hour, 56 minutes, 2 seconds. She earned her second-ever WTS victory in the 2013 edition of the race, and her 12-race win streak, which ended last month in Gold Coast, began in Yokohama in 2014. Australia's Ashleigh Gentle was second in 1:57:20, and Japan's Ai Ueda finished with the bronze medal in front of a home crowd in 1:57:25.
"What I love about coming to Yokohama is everyone's so welcoming, polite and helpful. And when you race, the crowd just lines the entire course, and that's always something that's exciting and motivating," Jorgensen said. "I would have liked to have been a little closer up to the front on the swim and the bike and still have some work to do. So it's good that I have three months, so I can continue to build and mess with my bike and my run."
The wind caused some challenges for athletes early on with a choppy swim, but once out on the bike, all seven American women were in the lead pack. With an automatic qualification on the line for a podium finish, the U.S. women ran thrilling races, with Summer Cook (Thornton, Colo.) and Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.) jockeying for a podium position in the early stages of the run. Katie Zaferes (Hampstead, Md.) finished as the second U.S. woman behind Jorgensen, placing sixth.
The third U.S. women's Olympic slot is expected to be finalized after an evaluation of the domestique or "team player" scenario, which is written into the selection criteria as a possible option prior to the Objective Rankings System being confirmed.
In the men's race, Maloy (Wildwood Crest, N.J.) led the way for the U.S. men, finishing 11th and confirming his nomination to the men's U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team as the top-ranked man in the USA Triathlon Objective Rankings System. Maloy finished in 1:47:16, while Spain's Mario Mola led the charge for the men finishing in 1:46:27.
"I really didn't think about it too much [during the race]. I was just thinking of catching the guys in front of me. But there was definitely a moment, probably around 5k to go, where I realized if you just hold on and you keep moving, you're going to get your ticket," Maloy said. "You dream of this situation in your head: You're running and you realize you're going to make the Olympics. And realize a lifelong dream."
Kanute (Geneva, Ill.) posted a season-best 17th place to earn his Olympic qualification. He led the field coming out of the water and while the men's race unfolded much like the women's in that most of the field was riding in one large pack, Kanute was also the first athlete out of transition. Though he lost some ground on the run, he finished high enough to improve his score in the Objective Rankings System and move into the third position, qualifying for the team.
"I came into the race, and I just had a good feeling. Today I felt really good, and I just had a checklist in my mind of things I wanted to do during the race," Kanute said. "I checked off the swim pretty early on; I was right where I wanted to be. And the bike I kind of had fun with. I pretended it was a group ride at home, just stayed toward the front and put myself in a good position for the run. You know, the run I've been working on for the past few years now, and I've had good runs and I've had awful runs. And today, I just really wanted to go out and be able to run my best, and I felt like I was really able to do that. I set myself up to do that, too. I was just happy I was able to go out and run solid."
Billington (Spokane, Wash.), who led the Objective Rankings System entering the race, did not finish on Saturday but still had enough points to retain a top-two position in the rankings and qualify. It will be the first Olympic berth for all three U.S. men.
The Olympic qualification period closes May 15. The men will race in Rio on Aug. 18 and the women are scheduled to race Aug. 20, with the main venue set at Copacabana Beach. Learn more about USA Triathlon and the Olympic Games at USATriathlon.org.
All qualifications and nominations to the U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team are pending approval by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Elite Women - Complete Results
1. Gwen Jorgensen (St. Paul, Minn.), 1:56:02
2. Ashleigh Gentle (AUS), 1:57:20
3. Ai Ueda (JPN), 1:57:25
6. Katie Zaferes (Hampstead, Md.), 1:57:35
9. Kirsten Kasper (North Andover, Mass.), 1:58:02
14. Summer Cook (Thornton, Colo.), 1:58:31
26. Renée Tomlin (Ocean City, N.J.), 1:59:49
29. Lindsey Jerdonek (Brecksville, Ohio), 2:00:04
45. Erin Jones (Hood River, Ore.), 2:02:54
Elite Men - Complete Results
1. Mario Mola (ESP), 1:46:27
2. Crisanto Grajales (MEX), 1:46:42
3. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR), 1:46:45
11. Joe Maloy (Wildwood Crest, N.J.), 1:47:16
17. Ben Kanute (Geneva, Ill.), 1:47:52
35. Eric Lagerstrom (Portland, Ore.), 1:49:06
36. Kevin McDowell (Geneva, Ill.), 1:49:08
45. Jarrod Shoemaker (Clermont, Fla.), 1:51:13
DNF Greg Billington (Spokane, Wash.)
||About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 races and connects with nearly 500,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work with athletes, coaches and race directors on the grassroots level, USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).