Six things we took away from WTCS Yokohama

by Ben Eastman on 12 May, 2024 07:25 • Español
Six things we took away from WTCS Yokohama

The patience of triathlon fans was rewarded as the WTCS season burst into life at the opening round of 2024 in Yokohama. It had been a long wait since the Championship Finals in Pontevedra and athletes, coaches and fans were champing at the bit to get the new Series underway. What followed in Japan was a pair of explosive races.

From the first-time winners to the Olympic battles and to the personal stories, read on to find six of the major takeaways from WTCS Yokohama.


Leonie Periault (FRA) and Morgan Pearson (USA) were the cream of the crop in Yokohama as both powered to their first ever victories in the Series. As it happens, Periault and Pearson share a number of similarities. The most obvious comes in how they won their respective races, with both relying on outstanding running performances.

Both were previous medallists in Yokohama. Pearson claimed his maiden WTCS medal at the race back in 2021. There must be something in the air in Olympic years for both of his breakout WTCS showings have come in the build-up to the Games. Meanwhile, Periault was a previous medallist at the race back in 2022.

Both are also previous silver medallists at WTCS Finals – Periault in Edmonton in 2021 and Pearson in Abu Dhabi in 2022 – while, in another parallel, the two athletes also won their last outings at the Karlovy Vary World Cup. Pearson won the event in 2023, his only international medal of the season, while Periault won the race the last time she visited in 2022. Over the last couple of years, then, the careers of Pearson and Periault have been uncannily familiar.

Elsewhere, the podium in Yokohama saw another first as Luke Willian (AUS) stormed to a career-best performance and took 3rd place.


One of the biggest talking points in Yokohama was the return of the reigning Olympic champion, Flora Duffy (BER). Due to a persistent injury problem, Duffy had not raced since the WTCS Final back in 2022 where she wrapped up a fourth world title. A knee issue had flared up earlier in her campaign and that 2023 season was over before it began.

A long wait was therefore in store for Duffy’s return. The best part of 18 months came and went as, save for an abortive attempt to race the Paris Olympic Test Event, Duffy watched the triathlon world move on.

With time running out to get back into the swing of things ahead of her Olympic defence in Paris, she eventually made it onto the start list for Yokohama. With her form unknown, anything could have followed.

Any concerns, though, proved unfounded. Duffy finished 7th in a strong all-round performance in which she was towards the front for most of the race. A particularly eye-catching second lap of the swim set up her day and she hardly put a foot wrong. With the cobwebs blown off, so to speak, Duffy is officially back and a return to the podium in the Series and potentially at the Olympic Games will now be in her sights.


It all started so well for Vasco Vilaca (POR). Alongside Ricardo Batista, Melanie Santos and Maria Tomé, Vilaca had his Olympic selection officially confirmed in the days leading up to Yokohama. Together, that quartet secured Olympic qualification in the Mixed Team Relay event in Napier at the start of the year and thus were granted the Olympic slots by the Portuguese selectors.

After a welcome boost before the race, Vilaca then got off to a great start. He was among the ten fastest swimmers and inserted himself at the head of the front pack out of T1. A cheeky small breakaway followed alongside Jonas Schomburg, Vetle Bergsvik Thorn and Lasse Nygaard Priester in a show of strength. After industrious work on the bike, all seemed to be going Vilaca’s way.

However, he was caught up in the crash on the final lap of the bike. Although he went on to finish the race after sustaining some unpleasant scrapes, his race was wrecked. A wounded Vilaca lost over a minute to the leaders on the bike and then ran home for 27th place.

It was a weekend that had started so promisingly and hinted at so much prior to his crash. The four-time medallist from 2023, though, will have to bide his time for his next shot at the podium.

Yokohama Vilaca


While Pearson starred in the men’s race and Taylor Knibb (USA) earned the silver medal in the women’s event, the American Olympic race was actually left on a knife-edge. Pearson and Knibb had already secured the places on the Olympic team at the Paris Test Event and so the action behind them was more pertinent to the race to the Games.

To that end, two athletes came up just short of their goals. A medal in Yokohama would have been enough to secure automatic nomination to the American team however Taylor Spivey finished 4th and Kirsten Kasper finished 5th. After good work in the swim and bike, both found themselves in contention out of T2. Indeed, Kasper spent much of the early stages of the run in a medal position.

While Spivey and Kasper have proven their form, their Olympic futures will now fall under the discretion of the American selectors. With Katie Zaferes (USA) set to get her chance to prove herself at WTCS Cagliari, what comes next will be anyone’s guess.


One shared trait of the men’s and women’s races in Yokohama was the late rises of a few athletes through the field. While Pearson had the best run split in the men’s race, Periault was the third fastest runner in the women’s event. The top split actually went to Lisa Tertsch (GER) as she completed the 10km in 32:49 to pick off women ahead and finish 14th. Similarly, Gwen Jorgensen (USA) used a big run split (32:56) to rise to 15th having arrived in T2 the better part of 2 minutes behind the lead group.

In the men’s race, Miguel Hidalgo (BRA) and WTCS debutant Hugo Milner (GBR) were also among the top runners. Hidalgo managed to run his way into the top-8 with the second fastest run of the day while Milner rallied with the fourth fastest run split (after Matthew Hauser) having lost time earlier.

It did not affect the top positions, but the late smoke on the run certainly added some drama further down the field.

Yokohama Tertsch


Last but by no means least, we come to Japan’s man of the hour. Kenji Nener (JPN) had a fantastic day as he finished 7th, his best ever finish in the Series. For much of the run, Nener was locked into the chase pack and until Hauser attacked on the final lap he was in with a shout of winning a medal.

For now, Nener’s new personal best will be enough of a step forward. Furthermore, he has officially cracked the automatic selection requirement to make the Japanese Olympic team. Nener had to finish inside the top-8 in Yokohama and he ended up doing so with relative comfort.

Having already won a first ever World Cup medal this season and defended his Asian title, Nener is certainly on the rise and the home hero will be one to watch as the season unfolds.

After the excitement of Yokohama, be sure to catch the next round of the WTCS in Cagliari in two weeks. You can stay up to date with the build-up and all the action on Triathlon.Live and across World Triathlon social channels.

Article tags wtcs yokohama wtcs 2024

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Related Event: 2024 World Triathlon Championship Series Yokohama
11 May, 2024 • event pageall results
Results: Elite Men
1. Morgan Pearson USA 01:42:05
2. Matthew Hauser AUS 01:42:12
3. Luke Willian AUS 01:42:20
4. Léo Bergere FRA 01:42:26
5. Charles Paquet CAN 01:42:30
Results: Elite Women
1. Leonie Periault FRA 01:52:28
2. Taylor Knibb USA 01:53:04
3. Emma Lombardi FRA 01:53:08
4. Taylor Spivey USA 01:53:25
5. Kirsten Kasper USA 01:53:34
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