The World Triathlon Championship Series was the penultimate top-tier race for athletes to earn crucial Olympic qualifying points.
Maiden World Triathlon Championship Series victories for Great Britain’s Alex Yee and Dutch star Maya Kingma in Leeds on Sunday raised their stocks with an eye on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games (in 2021).
Yee made the strongest possible case for a maiden Olympic appearance beating a star-studded field which included the decorated Brownlee brothers, Jonny and Alistair.
Two-time Olympic champion Alistair’s hopes of reaching his fourth Games and a chance of defending his title for a second time suffered a blow when he was disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct during the opening swim leg. He made contact with the United States’ Chase McQueen with the disqualification signalling the possible end of a stellar Olympic career. Alistair continued the rest of the race only finding out about his disqualification on the last lap.
While the day ended in disappointment for a legend of the sport, Yee’s win marked the promising steps of another rising British star.
Yee produced a barnstorming run to claim the victory in a time of one hour, 43 minutes and 27 seconds (1:43:27) with US triathlete Morgan Pearson finishing 25 seconds behind him. Belgium’s Marten van Riel bagged the bronze medal in a time of 1:44:03.
“That was very special. It is the first time that I’ve seen so many people on the street, and it was just amazing to be able to deliver in front of all of them,” Yee told World Triathlon.
“These results are a team effort. For me to finish fourth in Yokohama was a bit of a disappointment, but after the race I spoke with the team to see what we needed to work on, and I think that this shows the progression I’ve made in the last weeks.”
The Tokyo-bound Kingma highlighted her peak form adding the World Triathlon Championship Series gold medal to the bronze she clinched three weeks ago at the season’s opener in Yokohama.
In Yokohama she ran out of steam despite leading that race transitioning into the 10-kilometre run leg but in Leeds she had the legs to take her all the way to the top of the podium.
Kingma made a break on the cycle leg with Britons Jess Learmonth and Sophie Coldwell joining her as they opened some daylight at the front.
The trio stayed together over the first quarter of the run leg with Coldwell losing touch with Kingma and Learmonth going toe for toe.
The Dutchwoman produced a surge in the final lap to give her a hard-won victory in a time of 1:54:26. Britain claimed a 2-3 podium finish with Learmonth finishing second in 1:54:37 with Coldwell bagging bronze in 1:54:46.
“I can’t believe it! I had a very good swim, even though I was on the other side of the pontoon," Kingma told World Triathlon.
"I tried not to think about what could happen, but it was just all according to my plan, just like Yokohama."