Carolyn Hayes claims silver at Triathlon World Cup to close in on Olympics dream

Limerick athlete produced best Irish female triathlon performance in almost decade

Carolyn Hayes took one giant leap towards qualification for the Olympics after producing the best Irish female performance in a triathlon in almost a decade.

The Limerick athlete finished second at Sunday's Triathlon World Cup in Lisbon, Portugal, behind double Olympic medallist Nicola Spirig of Switzerland; the result is the first time an Irish woman has stood on a World Cup podium since Aileen Reid's silver medal in 2013.

With just a handful of races left in the qualifying period, the result all but guarantees the Limerick athlete’s participation at Tokyo 2021. The 33-year-old took the lead as the field transitioned from the 40km bike leg to 10km run and only relinquished first place in the closing 1,500m.

“I have worked really hard like everyone throughout the last year and half,” she said. “I am very confident on the bike so knew if I stayed and it came down to a running race that I would be okay. I think everyone is racing thinking, ‘I want to go to the Olympics’ so you just have to keep digging in and I was just so determined.


In a first on a global triathlon broadcast, Hayes went on to speak in Irish to the World Triathlon feed, thanking her supporters, her family and her coaching team and saying she was so proud to wear the green of Ireland. She added that she hopes to make it to Tokyo.

Textbook dismount

Hayes completed a textbook dismount from the bike, flew through transition in the quickest time of the day of 22 seconds and went out on to the 10km run in first place. From there she never looked back, putting out a blistering run leg that saw her go almost 20 seconds clear of the field at one stage.

The only athlete able to stay in touch with Hayes was Olympic silver and gold medalist Spirig. Eventually the Swiss legend managed to pass Hayes but the determined Limerick woman didn’t allow her pull clear and ran shoulder to shoulder with Spirig for the closing kilometres.

She went on to win in a time of one hour, 59 minutes and five seconds with Hayes crossing the line 12 seconds later: “I wanted to test myself and I am really pleased that it was only in the last kilometre that I had company, this gives me confidence going forward to hopefully it’s enough to get a ticket to Tokyo.”

Also racing today were Chloe Pollard and Maeve Gallagher who finished 40th and 42nd respectively.

With just four races left to go before the Olympic qualifying period for triathlon closes, Triathlon Ireland’s Performance Director Stephen Delaney said the result all but guarantees Hayes’s place in Tokyo. “Today’s performance makes it really difficult for anyone else who’s chasing Carolyn. Anybody who wants it now, has to go out and outperform what Carolyn did today.”

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics