Great Britain’s mixed relay team earned silver and Olympic qualification for Paris 2024 after a stunning final leg by Georgia Taylor-Brown rounded-off a huge team performance from Taylor-Brown, Alex Yee, Sophie Coldwell and Sam Dickinson at the World Mixed Relay Championships in Montreal.
Taylor-Brown, who won the women’s World Triathlon Championship Series race on Saturday, delivered the fastest final leg by more than 30 seconds to move Great Britain from sixth to second place despite also having to serve a time penalty in the final metres of the run.
Although finished off superbly by Taylor-Brown, it was a medal-winning performance built across all four legs.
Yee was first to take on the 300m swim, 6.6km bike and 1.9km for Great Britain and, just as it was in the individual race 24 hours earlier which saw Yee sprint to victory, it was Yee against New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde at the front of the race in the opening leg.
Wilde, who claimed individual silver behind Yee, had opened up a gap on the run, but Yee showed the same determination as he did on Saturday to close the gap to Wilde to handover to Coldwell almost simultaneously as New Zealand did.
After Coldwell and Ainsley Thorpe of New Zealand entered the water close together, they were joined by Brazil’s Vittoria Lopes at the front of the race and then Emma Lombardi of France early on the bike.
Coldwell spent much of the bike leg on the front, but despite her best efforts, the leaders and main chase group came together before they reached transition two.
On the run, Coldwell kept GB towards the front of the race, handing over to Dickinson with Great Britain in fourth, 15 seconds behind the leaders Norway with France in second only a couple of seconds behind.
It was on the third swim where the race-defining splits would begin to open-up, particularly at the head of the race where Vincent Luis (FRA) exited the water 19 seconds ahead of Taylor Reid (NZL) and Kevin Mcdowell (USA). Dickinson was only a couple of seconds further behind in fourth.
Over the bike and run, Dickinson worked to try and reduce the time gaps, but, as with the rest of the chasers, the gap to the race lead had grown. Dickinson passed over to Taylor-Brown with Great Britain in sixth, around 30 seconds behind New Zealand and USA in second and third and with a 10-second penalty to serve for a transition infringement.
Two weeks after posting the fastest female split in Leeds when GB claimed mixed relay silver, Taylor-Brown would again repeat the feat – covering the final swim, bike, run more than 30 seconds quicker than Cassandre Beaugrand (FRA), the next quickest, with the British athlete’s time also including the 10-second penalty.
By the time Taylor-Brown had exited the swim, Great Britain had already gained two places and were within 20 seconds of third place. That became less than 10 seconds out of transition one and before the end of the first bike lap the Olympic gold and silver medallist had caught the group of Summer Rappaport (USA) and Nicole Van Der Kaay (NZL) in second and third.
Although the gap to Beaugrand had been cut, the French athlete still had around a 13 second advantage heading onto the run, but Taylor-Brown, along with Van Der Kaay and Rappaport, left transition in pursuit.
Taylor-Brown quickly moved past Van Der Kaay and into second early on the run. Choosing to serve the penalty on the final run lap, it was a nail-biting finale to see where Taylor-Brown would emerge from the penalty box.
But the advantage the British athlete had built over the course of the run was enough for Taylor-Brown to serve the penalty and still cross the line seven seconds ahead of the USA as Great Britain secured silver, 23 seconds behind race winners France.
Speaking to World Triathlon after crossing the line, Georgia Taylor-Brown said: “I was kind of settling for fourth place because I thought [Nicole] Van der Kaay and Summer [Rappaport] were going to out run me because I worked really hard on the swim and the first lap of the bike. I had some very strong curse words for little Samuel [Dickinson] but I’m glad we got there in the end.”
Alex Yee, who secured his second medal of the weekend, added: “I’m absolutely over the moon to share it with these guys. To have such a good result was incredible. It’s been a long weekend but what a dream way to finish it.”
Sophie Coldwell, who was also part of the mixed relay team in Leeds, said: “When it’s for your team you always find that little bit extra but it’s been a tough couple of days of racing. I was just really proud of everyone for rallying and getting another great performance out.”
European Mixed Relay champion Sam Dickinson added: “Obviously being on a team with these superstars it’s always hard to slot in but I didn’t make it easy for G [Georgia Taylor-Brown] I might have to buy her a pair of sun glasses for Christmas but I’m so thankful. She is such a superstar and managed to bring it home.”
With France, the 2024 Olympic Games hosts, securing the race victory, finishing second had added importance for Great Britain, who have now secured two spots in both the men’s and women’s individual races along with a place on the mixed relay start line at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Commenting on the Olympic qualification, British Triathlon Performance Director, Mike Cavendish said: “With relay qualification for Paris on the line, Montreal has long been identified as a priority for us. The performance in the Mixed Relay in Leeds laid a brilliant foundation for Montreal and we’re delighted to have now secured our spot on the start line for the relay in Paris 2024.
“Earning relay qualification as early as possible was a key part of our wider strategy and to be able to achieve this at the first opportunity, with lots of areas still to improve, is really pleasing. Sometimes you have to tough it out and I’m really proud of our team - and everyone behind the scenes - for doing that today.”
(Image: World Triathlon)