Great Britain has won its second triathlon medal of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and its seventh of all time, courtesy of a classy and composed performance from Georgia Taylor-Brown on debut.
Following a 15min delay thanks to Typhoon Nepartak, the 27-year-old from Manchester caught the feet of the front group of swimmers in the 1.5k, led by teammate Jessica Learmonth, to form a seven-strong group of athletes on the soggy, slow and technical 40km bike leg.
Down to five by lap five of eight, it was shaping up to be a 10k battle between Taylor-Brown, Flora Duffy (BER), Learmonth, Katie Zaferes (USA) and Laura Lindemann (GER), but a puncture 2km out of T2 spelled potential race-ending disaster for the reigning world champion. Not today, though, as Taylor-Brown, handling both her bike and the pressure beautifully, was able to roll into transition just 22secs off the leading quartet.
In little more than 1km, she was already in bronze position; with a lap to go she swept by Zaferes and on her way to a silver medal in her debut Olympic Games; the gold already locked and secured by Duffy 1:14mins up the road.
But she bridged the gap to bronze in little more than a kilometre and caught USA’s Katie Zaferes with a lap to go to claim a remarkable silver medal on Olympic debut – just weeks after being injured in the build-up to the Games.
“It’s strange to come to an Olympic Games not having raced since last September,” said Taylor-Brown in her post-race interview with Team GB. “I kept it all a bit private, what was going on. I got a stress response in my femur 12 weeks ago [which left her on crutches]. My training had gone so well before then though, so that was a bit of a shock, but I knew I had all of that training in the bag.
“I wanted to keep it private, you don’t want to show your competitors your weaknesses, so I did just say I was ill [when she pulled out of racing WTCS Leeds]. I’ve had six weeks of building my running back again.
“It’s not perfect, it’s not what I wanted or what anyone would want. I got myself into a really good position and I was as fit as I could have been on the start line today. About a week before we flew out I had to prove I was fit to compete, which was probably more stressful than today because it could have been taken away from me.
“But I proved I was fit, ready to go and did more than they asked me to do. I had to go in to today relaxed and that I’d done everything I possibly could, and I left everything out there. I planned for hot weather and for a slower race, which favoured me because of the lack of running I’d done recently.
“I didn’t have the speed that Flora had today, and I’m more than happy with silver. Without the injury I think I could have hung in there and maybe given her a bit more of a race. I think I’ve handled it very well and I’m proud to have got on the start line.”
Taylor-Brown’s teammates Learmonth, also in her debut Games, and Rio bronze medallist Vicky Holland finished ninth and 13th, respectively. To see two of the girls in action again (team TBC at time of print) don’t miss the first-ever Olympic Mixed Relay event on Friday 30 July, 11:30pm BST (6:3oam local time, Saturday 31 July).
Photo credit: © World Triathlon Media / Wagner Araujo