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Rachel Klamer: Background, career highlights, quotes

Dutch triathlete Rachel Klamer has been racing on the world stage since 2008, but who is she and what are her career highlights? Let's find out…

For over 15 years now, the Netherlands’ Rachel Klamer has been a familiar presence on the triathlon circuit. She’s won medals a-plenty, but can she finally snaffle an Olympic one? Here’s her career to date…

Who is Rachel Klamer? 

Born in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare but raised in the Netherlands by her Dutch parents, Rachel Klamer has been one of the most consistent performers over her 15-plus years of elite racing.

Having won the very first elite event she lined up for while still a teen (a European Cup affair in Alanya in Turkey in 2019), she has graced podiums in many different competitions. 
 
Her trophy cabinet at home must be teeming with medals, whether from the European Cup, the World Cup, the African Cup, the European Games, the European championships or the world championships.

One of Rachel’s most treasured medals has to be the gold she won in Abu Dhabi in 2018, her only top-of-the-podium success in the World Triathlon Series.  

Rachel has also been a notable competitor in Super League Triathlon, coming second overall in the Championship series in both 2018 and 2019, as well as taking silver at the Arena Games in Rotterdam in 2020.

But arguably her greatest result found her outside the medals. At the delayed Tokyo Olympics in 2021, the flying Dutchwoman took fourth place in a sprint finish. Whether she can go at least one better this summer in Paris is perfectly possible.

How old is Rachel Klamer? 

Rachel Klamer was born on 8 October 1990, making her 33 years of age. 

Rachel Klamer’s career highlights 

Rachel Klamer wins her first World Triathlon race, in Abu Dhabi, 2018
Rachel Klamer wins her first World Triathlon race, in Abu Dhabi, 2018. (Credit: Janos Schmidt/World Triathlon)

October 2009: Victory in maiden elite race 

After a noteworthy junior career (Euro champs silver, world champs bronze), Rachel brilliantly steps up, winning her first-ever race as an elite with European Cup victory in Alanya in Turkey. It comes just a couple of weeks after her 19th birthday. 

September 2010: Close but no cigar at U23 worlds 

Rachel Klamer, centre, having won the 2010 Alanya World Cup
Rachel Klamer, centre, having won the 2010 Alanya World Cup. (Credit: triathlon.org)

Rachel has to settle for fourth place at the U23 world championships in Budapest, although she finishes comfortably ahead of future world and Olympic champion Flora Duffy.

The following month, Rachel returns to Alanya to repeat her European Cup success of the previous year. 

June 2011: A first WTS top-10 finish 

Rachel puts in her best World Triathlon Series performance to date when she edges into the top 10 in Madrid, leaving some sterling athletes in her wake, the much-decorated Lisa Nordén and Emma Moffatt among them. 

July 2011: European Cup win on home soil 

A third career European Cup victory marks Rachel’s first triumph in her native Netherlands. And it’s a commanding performance, finishing more than two minutes ahead of the field. She will win here again in 12 months’ time. 

February 2013: Cape of good form 

Born in neighbouring Zimbabwe, Rachel travels to South Africa where – in Cape Town, hometown of her husband Richard Murray – she takes victory in an African Cup sprint race to kick off the season.

Those winning ways continue into the spring with another European Cup success in Alanya, her fourth win there in five years. 

June 2015: European Games silver 

Rachel Klamer hangs on to the wheels of Nicola Spirig, front left, and Lisa Norden, right, at the 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan
Rachel Klamer hangs on to the wheels of Nicola Spirig, front left, and Lisa Norden, right, at the 2015 European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Credit: Matthias Hangst/Getty Images for BEGOC)

Rachel returns from the inaugural edition of the European Games in Baku in Azerbaijan with something shiny in her luggage.

She had held off the challenge of Lisa Nordén to claim silver by two seconds, but had to concede defeat to the living legend that is Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig

September 2015: Top five in the Windy City 

Over the last couple of seasons, Rachel has steadily become one of the most consistent performers in the WTS series and a regular face in the top 10, the latest of which is a fifth place in Chicago at the Grand Final. She ends the season ranked sixth in the series. 

July 2016: WTS silver in Hamburg 

L-R: Rachel Klamer (silver), Katie Zaferes (gold) and Gwen Jorgensen (bronze) celebrate on the podium at the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Hamburg race.
L-R: Rachel Klamer (silver), Katie Zaferes (gold) and Gwen Jorgensen (bronze) celebrate on the podium at the 2016 ITU World Triathlon Hamburg race. (Credit: Petko Beier/Getty Images)

Rachel finally takes in the view from a WTS podium in the German port city. She takes silver, splitting the American pair of Katie Zaferes and Gwen Jorgensen.

July 2017: A first world championship medal 

L-R: Team USA (silver), Team Australia (gold) and Team Netherlands (bronze) celebrate on the podium at the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Championships in Hamburg, Germany.
L-R: Team USA (silver), Team Australia (gold) and Team Netherlands (bronze) celebrate on the podium at the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Championships in Hamburg, Germany. (Credit: Alexander Koerner/Getty Images for WTS)

Another year, another medal in Hamburg. This time it’s a world championship gong as the Dutch mixed relay squad take bronze behind Australia and the United States. 

May 2018: Maiden WTS victory in the desert sun 

After truly solidifying her WTS reputation with five top-10 finishes in 2017, Rachel kicks off the new season in style with her first-ever triumph in the series.

In the heat of Abu Dhabi, she comfortably finishes ahead of Britain’s Jess Learmonth and Australia’s Natalie Van Coeworden to lead the series at this early stage. 

June 2019: Euro champs bronze 

On their home turf of Weert, the Dutch mixed relay team, with Rachel among them, take European bronze behind France and Germany. 

July 2021: Olympic medal just eludes 

Dutch athlete Rachel Klamer crosses the line in fourth place ahead of France's Leonie Periault at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games
Rachel Klamer crosses the line in fourth ahead of France’s Leonie Periault at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. (Credit: ANP Sport via Getty Images)

After coming 36th in London in 2012 and 10th in Rio four years later, Rachel puts in a monumental effort at the COVID-delayed Tokyo Olympics. In grey and damp conditions, she outsprints France’s Leonie Periault to come fourth.

Rachel agonisingly just misses out on an Olympic medal a few days later when the Dutch mixed relay team also finish fourth. 

September 2023: More silver for the collection 

Outpaced by that excellent runner Gwen Jorgensen, who wins by four seconds, Rachel’s second place in the Czech Republic leg of the World Triathlon Cup is nonetheless the start of some fine form in this particular competition. Top-10 finishes follow in Pontevedra, Tangier and Rome. 

Rachel Klamer in quotes 

On the liberating nature of getting in the water: “Swimming in open water is more than just a sport. It can give us this great feeling of freedom and adventure. No chlorine, no walls, no people you have to swim around.” 
 
On the quickfire nature of Super League Triathlon racing: “It tests you in a way a normal triathlon does not, with transitions being super-important. If you lose one or two seconds in transition, you can be out. It’s so short, you can’t lose your focus for a second. One little mistake can be a really big one.” 
 
On life away from training and competition: “I like to go to the supermarket and chat to people about how their days are going. I like to be a normal person and get away from being the athlete.” 

What’s next for Rachel Klamer? 

After coming fourth in Tokyo three years ago, Rachel’s prime target for the coming months has to be – like it is for so many others – an Olympic medal of some sort in what will surely be her last tilt at Games glory.

Beyond that, don’t be surprised if she upholds the time-honoured tradition of moving to long-distance racing in her mid-30s to prolong what’s been a fine career. 

Top image credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images
 

Profile image of Nige Tassell Nige Tassell Freelance sportswriter

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Nige has written about a variety of sports for numerous titles, among them The Guardian, GQ, Esquire, the Sunday Times, Rouleur, ProCycling, FourFourTwo, the Times Literary Supplement, The Independent, The Blizzard and When Saturday Comes. He is also a prolific author whose books include Three Weeks, Eight Seconds: Greg LeMond, Laurent Fignon and the Epic Tour de France of 1989, and The Bottom Corner: Hope, Glory and Non-League Football. His latest book – The Hard Yards: A Season in the Championship, Football’s Toughest League – was published in 2021 by Simon & Schuster.