Maya Kingma won her first World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) race in a thrilling encounter in Leeds’ Roundhay Park.
The Dutch woman, 26, finished just ahead of Tokyo-bound Jess Learmonth with British teammate Sophie Coldwell in third.
There was also an exceptional debut at the distance for Lucy Charles-Barclay. The three-time Ironman World Championship runner-up only found out she had a start a fortnight ago, but tore the race apart on the swim and showed her resilience to finish fifth.
Two-time world champion Flora Duffy was one place ahead of Charles-Barclay in fourth and the USA’s final berth for Tokyo may now fall to sixth-placed Taylor Spivey – not 2019 world champion Katie Zafares, who struggled to 18th, 4mins 37sec off the pace.
There were excellent performances from British triathletes across the board. A fast-finishing Beth Potter produced by far her best World Series result to place seventh and Sian Rainsley was 13th on her World Series debut.
Despite a ninth podium for Learmonth, a World Series victory remains elusive, but the Commonwealth Games silver medallist was simply delighted to be back in action after a hip injury – and was also thankful to be able to tuck in behind Charles-Barclay on the swim.
“I’m enjoying being back in my home town, and with the crowd I loved it!” Learmonth said. “We tried to keep it strong up the hills and keep pressing on. I wasn’t confident in my run, so I wanted to make sure I had a buffer. It sort of worked, but hats off to Maya, she’s running really well and deserves it.”
Charles-Barclay termed it a “100% a baptism of fire” ahead of the event, but it probably felt like that to her rivals too as the swim specialist set a blistering pace from the off to string out the 45-strong field before they’d reached the first buoy.
The roar from the home crowd – a sell-out 4,000 were in attendance – as Charles-Barclay dived from the pontoon for the start of the second 750m lap only added to the impetus as a line of Brits led by Learmonth followed.
By the time Charles-Barclay climbed the ramp to T1 the race was already ripped apart, with a front six also including Learmonth, Kingma, Coldwell, Spivey and Brazilian Vittoria Lopes.
Sharp transitions by Learmonth, Coldwell and Kingma meant it was a front group of three that powered clear up the first hill, quickly putting 30sec into the chasers with Duffy breaking ominously from the main field that was already more than a minute adrift.
The Bermudan caught the trio of Spivey, Charles-Barclay and Lopes at the start of the third lap, but the gap continued to grow to the front and by the time the leaders reached T2 it was insurmountable at more than 2mins.
Learmonth, Kingma and Coldwell ran shoulder-to-shoulder for the first 2.5km lap of the final leg before Coldwell lost contact. Duffy then broke clear in fourth, and Charles-Barclay’s impressive debut continued as she matched Spivey for pace in the battle for fifth.
As Learmonth faltered over the final run-in, Kingma stayed strong, building on her third place in Yokohama WTCS in May and cementing her position as a genuine Olympic medal contender.
A delighted Coldwell crossed next making it a third successive World Series race in Leeds with two British women on the podium. Georgia Taylor-Brown won in 2019 and Vicky Holland the year before, but both were absent this year, Taylor-Brown because of illness and Holland with a calf strain. Both are on the Olympic team.
While Charles-Barclay may not be heading for Tokyo, the experience of Leeds WTCS has only whetted the appetite for a possible assault on Paris in three years’ time. “I come from a swim background where it was all about chasing that Olympic dream, and I still haven’t given up on that – I just hope I can do it in triathlon.”
Image Credit: World Triathlon/Tommy Zaferes