Strong start for Team GB and United States
Great Britain dominated the 16-team field in the mixed relay triathlon, claiming the first-ever gold medal in the event. For most of the race it was a five-team competition with Great Britain and the United States out front, and Germany, France and the Netherlands in the trail group close behind.
Great Britain’s Jessica Learmonth separated herself from the pack in the swim, establishing Team GB’s position in the lead for most of the first leg. Katie Zaferes, who won bronze in the individual, held pace and finished one second behind.
The pace quickened immediately, with the men taking off on the second leg. The U.S. and Great Britain further separated themselves from the pack. Kevin McDowell had a strong cycling leg, but Jonathan Brownlee’s run was too fast to keep up. Brownlee was running with extra motivation, as he had previously said this would be his last Olympics and he had just missed the podium in the individual triathlon.
Great Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown, who is ranked No. 1 in the world, was looking to erase her blown tire from the individual race. She held nothing back in the swim, separating herself from the group by almost 30 seconds. However, USA’s Taylor Knibb’s cycling helped close the gap to 11 seconds. Knibb was a late switch into the race, replacing Summer Rappaport. She pushed through an uncomfortable-looking run to keep the U.S. in second, as she handed the race to Morgan Pearson.
Heading into the event, the reigning world champions from France were favored to win gold. For most of the first two rounds, France was well behind the four lead teams, but Cassandre Beaugrand made up almost 30 seconds in the transition and swim, bringing them into medal contention.
Great Britain's Alex Yee proved why he is the future of the sport, after placing second in the men’s individual event. Yee took off in the swim section of the race, building a comfortable lead.
However, France’s Vincent Luis had something to say about it. First, Luis made a move halfway through the cycling leg, passing USA’s Pearson. He then managed to close the gap Yee had built. When the three racers entered the transition zone to switch from cycling to the run, Yee and Luis were about even, with Pearson close behind. Yee had a better transition, taking off with a three second lead on the run and Pearson nine seconds behind.
Pearson quickly challenged Luis for second with a move early in the run. Yee was never in danger of losing his position during the run, crossing the line at 1:23:41 for the sport’s inaugural gold medal. The United States finished 11 seconds later after a strong anchor from Pearson. France crossed 23 seconds later, overcoming the slow start to take home the bronze medal.