All-Around Athlete: XC and Track & Field’s Taylor Knibb Wins World Triathlon Titles on th
Taylor Knibb competed in her first kids’ triathlon in 2009 as an 11-year-old. Seven years later, in 2016, she won her first junior world championship title. In 2017, she did it again. To repeat, Knibb has captured the first place spot in the ITU Junior World Championships two years in a row, with her most recent victory on September 15, 2017 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The Sophomore, who also competes on the varsity cross country and track and field teams, had to fit in an intense triathlon training schedule with cross country training and schoolwork. Communicating with a trainer in Colorado, who manages her training through an app called TrainingPeaks, Knibb trained three hours per day. It was only starting in June 2017 that Knibb started incorporating full rest days into her schedule, but even these only occur once every 10 days.
Knibb is not new to the sport. Her mom has competed at an elite level in triathlons, as has her younger brother, though he is now “retired.” Knibb describes her mom as an inspiration for joining the sport, saying she always wanted to join her mom in training. Even now, she feels she has bonded closer with her mom over long training rides and traveling to competitions. In high school, Knibb placed a strong emphasis on the swimming component of the swim-bike-run trio and trained with a group of others at a local pool in her hometown, Washington, D.C. At Cornell, however, Knibb has had to adjust to training solo which, at times, she admitted can be difficult.
Despite her swim focus, Knibb feels she is most competitive in the biking portion. Throughout last year, to prepare for the spring and summer season, Knibb spent hours peddling in her Balch Hall dorm room on a bike stationed in place. In Rotterdam this year, Knibb exited the initial swim portion 12 seconds behind the leader. She caught up to finish the bike portion a full 34 seconds ahead, leading the race. She finished the race 16 seconds ahead of the second place finisher after the run. As to why she is so strong on the bike portion, Knibb humbly speculated it is more a weakness of her competitors than a strength for herself. Usually, she said, triathletes come from swimming and running backgrounds, making biking the newest event, and thus the most difficult, for some.
There are four main distances at which triathlons are set; these include sprint, Olympic, full and half triathlons. Knibb mostly competes in sprint and Olympic triathlons. For her world title in September, the sprint triathlon involved a swim of just under a half mile, a roughly 12-mile bike leg and finished with a a 5 km (3.1 miles) run. All this, she did in 1:01:22.
The triathlon season starts in the spring and finishes in September, and competing in the world circuit involves some serious strategy. In order to compete in the world championships, athletes have to qualify. But, that does not mean it is wise to compete in all the qualifying races.
Going into next year’s season, Knibb faces a whole new playing field. Having outgrown the junior circuit, she will now either qualify for the U23 or the full Elite events. Her race outcomes will help determine where she competes in the future. For now, though, she faces a full track and field season following the end of cross country. Of course, she’s also considering joining the Varsity swim team, too.