Katie Zaferes had every reason to smile Saturday, two weeks after receiving 23 stitches inside her mouth.
The American captured her first world triathlon title, cementing herself as the Tokyo Olympic favorite.
Zaferes won the World Series Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland, sitting on and then outsprinting world No. 2 Jessica Learmonth of Great Britain at the end of the 10km run. She had built up such a lead from winning four of the previous seven races this season that she needed only to finish in the top 12 to secure the championship.
The crowning moment came two weeks after Zaferes crashed in the Tokyo Olympic test event, biking into a barrier while looking behind her. She hit her face, her gums separated on impact and she suffered a broken nose.
“But luckily nothing too serious,” was posted on her social media. Zaferes returned to training within a few days for the Grand Final.
“I had a lot of emotions coming into this race after the last one, a lot of doubts,” Zaferes said Saturday. “I knew physically I would be OK, but, mentally, I had some doubts. I struggled on some of the corners [on the bike].”
That test event DNF meant Zaferes can’t qualify for her second Olympic team until next year. But there’s little doubt she will be in Tokyo next summer as U.S. triathlon’s new superstar following Rio Olympic champion Gwen Jorgensen‘s retirement and switch to marathon running.
Zaferes, much like Jorgensen four years earlier, rebounded from Olympic disappointment (came to Rio as a medal contender, finished 18th) to become the world No. 1. Her world ranking went from 16th in 2014 to fifth in 2015, fourth in 2016, third in 2017 and second last year.
Earlier Saturday, Frenchman Vincent Luis took the men’s world title, ending Spain’s six-year run at the top between Javier Gomez and Mario Mola.
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