TRIATHLON: Crazy double disqualification leaves Bermuda’s Flora Duffy as the ITU 2020 qualifying event winner

Comeback complete for Bermuda's Flora Duffy, winner in Tokyo! (Photo: ITU)

Anything can happen in a single race, and it did on Friday in Tokyo, as an entire season’s worth of results was upended by a bicycle crash, a double disqualification and the return of a World Champion in the International Triathlon Union’s Olympic qualification event.

Because of high heat expected – temperatures were already at 89 degrees (F) when the race started at 7:30 a.m. at the Odaiba Marine Park – the run phase was shortened from the normal 10 km to 5 km.

That was important for the season’s dominant force, American Katie Zaferes, who is an excellent runner and with the shorter distance, needed to get out of the water quickly. With water temps at 86 degrees (F), she was one of the leaders at 19:38, behind only Jessica Learmonth (GBR: 19:26) and fellow American Summer Rappaport (19:36) and just ahead of Brazil’s Vittoria Lopes.

But Zaferes was once again caught in a bike crash and didn’t finish the race. Fellow American Kirsten Kasper also crashed, but was able to continue and finished 14th. Rappaport and Taylor Spivey of the U.S. managed to avoid the traffic.

On the bike, the comeback of Bermuda’s past World Champion Flora Duffy was looking good, as she covered the 40 km in 1:01:47, second-fastest in the race and got into the run phase in a battle with British stars Jessica Learmonth (1:22.56 at the start of the run, with Duffy) and Georgia Taylor-Brown (1:22:57) with Italy’s Alice Betto and Brazilian Vittoria Lopes just seconds behind.

Taylor-Brown and Learmonth proved to be the best of the leaders on the run, clocking 17:11 and 17:12, with Duffy at 17:23. Not the fastest in the race, but both were clear of the field and took the finish line hand-in-hand in 1:40:08, 11 seconds clear of the Bermudan.

The hand-in-hand, deliberate finish was a problem and the ITU officials involved Rule 2.11.f, which states “Athletes who finish in a contrived tie situation, where no effort to separate their finish times has been made, will be disqualified.” And they were.

That left Duffy was the winner and everyone else moved up two places. Betto was now second (1:40:54) and a furious sprint (16:30!) by Vicky Holland (GBR) ended up earning her third. The second-fastest time on the run was from Rappaport, who moved up many placed on the final lap to get to fifth overall (after the disqualifications).

That finish – within the top eight – put her on the U.S. team for Tokyo. There will be another chance for Zaferes, Spivey, Kasper or someone else to qualify, but that will be next year.

Learmonth and Taylor-Brown learned a lesson about the ITU rules and Duffy demonstrated that she will be a major factor in Tokyo. Zaferes will have another chance later. The men go tomorrow. Summary:

ITU Olympic Qualification Event
Tokyo (JPN) ~ 15-16 August 2019
(Full results here)

Women (1.5 km swim/40 km bike/5 km run): 1. Flora Duffy (BER), 1:40:19; 2. Alice Betto (ITA), 1:40:54; 3. Vicky Holland (GBR), 1:41:11; 4. Vittoria Lopes (BRA), 1:41:21; 5. Summer Rappaport (USA), 1:41:25; 6. Laura Lindemann (GER), 1:41:27; 7. Non Stanford (GBR), 1:41:32; 8. Taylor Spivey (USA), 1:41:38. Also in the top 25: 14. Kirsten Kasper (USA), 1:42:40.