Great Britain became the first Olympic triathlon mixed team relay winners after producing a masterclass to dominate the inaugural competition in Tokyo.
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Jess Learmonth, Jonny Brownlee, Georgia Taylor-Brown and Alex Yee all had fantastic performances as Team GB added a third triathlon medal of the Games to go with Taylor-Brown and Yee’s silvers from the individual events.
It also meant a record-breaking third Olympic medal for Brownlee, who, after bronze in London 2012, and silver in Rio 2016 became the first triathlete to win three Olympic medals on what he promised was his final Games outing.
USA performed strongly throughout to claim silver, with France pulling back after a shaky start for bronze.
Conditions were still hot and humid at the Odaiba Marine Park, but not quite as fierce as in the men’s event, and they were spared a typhoon blowing through as it did during the women’s individual race.
Thankfully, there was also no badly positioned boat disrupting the start either as 16 teams lined up with only South Africa missing from the original roster after Henri Schoeman’s injury following the individual competition.
On the first leg it was no surprise that Learmonth led out of the water as she did in the individual race, closely followed by Holland’s Maya Kingma who won Leeds WTCS in June. The duo were quickly joined by USA’s Katie Zaferes and Germany’s Laura Lindemann on the bike for a formidable looking quartet that opened up a healthy 26sec gap as they came into T2.
There was little to separate them as they made the first changeover where Brownlee, Kevin McDowell (USA), Jonas Schomburg (Germany) and Martin van der Stel (Netherlands) sprinted the length of the blue carpet before launching themselves in for the second swim.
The French, who have won the past three world championships, were placed fifth with Dorian Coninx struggling to close the gap.
World champion Taylor-Brown increased her gap on the swim, as France’s Cassandre Beaugrand had a phenomenal swim to catch up to USA Taylor Knibb. But Beaugrand’s riposte didn’t last long, as Knibb’s bike power saw her pull clear in second.
Taylor-Brown who suffered a puncture in the final 2km of the individual race had no such misfortune this time around, but Knibb, who won Yokohama WTCS and is known for her bike power reduced the deficit to 11sec by the start of the 2km run.
But the gap was up to 21sec by the time Taylor-Brown handed over to Yee, with Knibb tagging Morgan Pearson and Beaugrand a further 12sec back for the French as she handed over to reigning world champion Vincent Luis.
Yee’s lead was cut to 17sec exiting the water, but Luis was on the charge and halfway through the bike leg made the catch. Pearson refused to be dropped completely. Yee exploded from transition and was gone like a shot, opening up an 11sec gap halfway through the run and never looking threatened, with Pearson holding off Luis for the silver.
Images credit: Tommy Zaferes and Wagner Araujo / World Triathlon