Taylor Knibb takes plenty of vitamin N.

“In Tokyo, one mistake I made is that I said yes to too many things,” Knibb said. “I do better when I fly under the radar. It's important to learn to take vitamin N.”

Two-time Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge has long been preaching the benefits of vitamin N, or vitamin “no,” which he defines as the ability to say no and remain disciplined.

Knibb is taking plenty of the crucial vitamin. As the Paris Olympics approach, she began a “media blackout” on June 1 to focus on preparing for the Games.

“This is the time to focus on training,” she said. “At the end of the day, it's a far better story if I perform on July 31. It might be a gamble, but I'm willing to take that gamble in pursuit of something better.”

At age 23, Knibb became the youngest woman ever to qualify for the U.S. Olympic triathlon team for the Tokyo Games. She earned a triathlon mixed relay silver medal in Tokyo but finished just 16th in the individual event.

Two years later, Knibb stormed to fifth place at the Paris Test Event in August 2023 and now projects as perhaps the best U.S. hope for a medal in the women’s triathlon.

Knibb, now 26, has re-tooled her mental approach ahead of the Paris Olympics, where she will actually compete in two sports: triathlon and road cycling. Her plan is ambitious: Race the cycling time trial (July 27) and then two triathlons — both the individual event (July 31) and the mixed team relay (Aug. 5)  — in a span of just nine days.

Knibb earned her spot in the Olympic cycling time trial by winning the event at the U.S. Road Cycling Championships, edging pre-race favorite Kristen Faulkner by 11 seconds.

I'm not doing [cycling] just to participate. I want to do well. You don't waste these opportunities.

The three years after Knibb’s first Olympic Games have featured epic feats — winning back-to-back Ironman 70.3 world titles — and grueling setbacks, such as a stress fracture in her foot that required surgery. The turbulent journey to Paris has prepared her mental game for what could be an unprecedented Olympic triumph in the sport of triathlon.

“In Tokyo, I was told that ‘It's just another race, just another race,’” Knibb said. “That is the most accurate and inaccurate statement, because from the minute the horn goes off to crossing the finish line, it is the exact same, but every minute before that and every minute after that is different.

“Everything takes longer at the Olympics. So, how do you deal with all these changes and extra stressors and differences when I'm used to certain timelines? Now, I know the differences, and I just need to prepare for them.”

Knibb has bolstered her preparation by regularly meeting with a sports psychologist, which she said adds a mental security blanket with the mayhem of the Olympics drawing closer. Knibb knows plenty about the human mind — she studied psychology at Cornell, where she played the part of the do-it-all triathlete. Knibb competed on the university’s cross country, track and field, swimming and diving teams.

“I will be grateful that I put in the time now,” Knibb said of her counseling sessions. “I want to develop safety nets, so planning for worst-case scenarios, if I need her, she's there.”

Knibb makes sure she plans for the worst in every situation. If she faces mental roadblocks and needs her sports psychologist, she’s covered. What if her checked baggage gets lost on the way to Paris? Knibb has thought of that.

“I have backups of everything,” she said. “If you saw me travel, you would be horrified by the amount of backups I bring of every single product that I might need. I was in Italy last week, and they lost my luggage. But I pack every single thing I need for the race in my carry-on."

“It's just understanding that there are a lot of things out of your control. And so, what can you control? What can you do? That's the approach to the Olympics and any sort of thing in life.”

In her return trip to Paris, the crowd will include Knibb’s family, unlike in the COVID-impacted Tokyo Games.

“It wrecked my mom not being able to be there,” Knibb said.

Her mother, Leslie Knibb, is who first offered Taylor entrée into the world of triathlon when Taylor competed in a kids triathlon as an 11-year-old. Leslie has been a triathlete for three decades and has coached since 2012.

“What she did just intrigued me,” Knibb said. “But she’s never my coach. She's made it very clear to keep it separate, which I appreciate because she always wants to be my mom first and foremost, and we don't want to blur those boundaries.”

Knibb will compete once more before she zones in on training and heads to Paris with her family – and plenty of those backup energy gels.