World Triathlon Paths to Paris: Summer Rappaport

by Ben Eastman on 19 Mar, 2024 03:20 • Español
World Triathlon Paths to Paris: Summer Rappaport

The journey to the Olympic Games is seldom straightforward. Few athletes encapsulate the winding and capricious nature of the Olympic journey as Summer Rappaport (USA). As part of the ongoing Paths to Paris series, World Triathlon caught up with an athlete for whom the way ahead does not simply consist of one road. Rather, Rappaport is tackling several at once.

The first path is the personal one. For Rappaport, this element of her journey can be framed by her fighting back from a gnarly crash towards the end of the 2023 season. At the time she hoped to lay the foundations in training for her 2024 campaign, she was forced to stop altogether.

“It was definitely a pretty big chunk of time off after the crash,” she said. “I don’t think I trained for two months after that.”

“I was also carrying an injury that had been misdiagnosed; we thought I just had SI inflammation, it turns out I had a sacral stress reaction. Finding that out and dealing with the crash injuries – which were a broken jaw and broken elbow – pretty much took me out of everything.”

Luckily, the worst is behind Rappaport. She has since enjoyed three months of training and is getting back to race fitness. Moreover, racing beckons.

Rappaport will be launching her Olympic season at WTCS Abu Dhabi. “I’m getting really excited to be back on the start line!”

Even after enduring such a considerable crash, she has no real reservations about jumping back into the fray.

“I’ve been in this sport for almost ten years now and I feel like you longer you do this the more likely every bad thing in the book can happen to you.”

“I’m very passionate about racing,” she added. “I had originally thought about retiring after Tokyo but I just love racing so much, I really didn’t want to hang things up.”

Summer Rappaport

While there is no good time to suffer injury, Rappaport’s came at a particularly inconvenient point. After a difficult 2022 season, she had already pulled herself back in 2023, bouncing back to bear her best. Finishes of 3rd at WTCS Montreal and 4th at WTCS Abu Dhabi were among her highlights.

Over the winter of 2022, she relocated to Boulder, Colorado, and changed coach.

“I feel like I responded really positively to those changes. I feel like it was getting to the point where things were starting to stick a little bit.” Then she had to hit pause.

“It’s definitely coming back faster than it was at the start of 2023, so I’m really optimistic for the start of this season!”

Beyond the comeback trail, Rappaport’s second path is the national one. The American women’s squad are among the deepest in the triathlon world, and WTCS medallists and world champions alike will stand in Rappaport’s path.

Taylor Knibb has scored a slot on the team after finishing 5th at the Paris Test Event. The remaining two places are still up for grabs.

“Since I started in the sport, making the US team has been one of the most competitive teams to make,” explained Rappaport. “If you just took the top-55 ranked athletes on the Olympic points list, we would have seven or eight athletes going. With only three spots it’s a very cut-throat process.”

Looking beyond Rappaport, Taylor Spivey won two WTCS medals in 2023, Katie Zaferes and Gwen Jorgensen impressed on the World Cup scene in their respective comebacks, and Kirsten Kasper is a proven performer. Multiple fantastic athletes will therefore have to miss out on the American team.

A podium at the final selection race at WTCS Yokohama will seal a place on the team, with the third and final slot going by selector discretion. Should no one medal in Yokohama, both women’s slots will be down to the judgement of the selectors.

“Trying to prove you’re the best person for Paris is a tough task,” admitted Rappaport. With such a demanding criteria and so much competition, does she find the race exciting or stressful? Rappaport breaks into a wide grin; “A little bit of both.”

The American race is almost unparalleled in its depth and by itself forms a captivating story. Not to be overlooked, though, is the third road that lines Rappaport’s path to Paris.

She has been here before. She nailed qualification for the Tokyo Olympics with her performance at the Test Event in 2019. She would then finish 14th at the Games.

While a solid result, as a former WTCS race winner and a frequent medallist, she has the ability to contend for an individual Olympic medal. Moreover, she did not get the nod for the American Mixed Team Relay in Tokyo, even after edging her teammate Knibb in the individual race.

“It wasn’t quite what I hoped,” confessed Rappaport. “I had a really good training block leading into Tokyo and then on the day it just didn’t come together.”

“I had done a significant amount of heat preparation leading into the race. We expected a completely different day than what we got. I think we were foiled by the conditions a little bit and that I didn’t get to showcase the fitness that I had.”

Summer Rappaport

While her Tokyo performance was nothing to sniff at, she enters 2024 with a sense that she has more to offer and a sensation of unfinished business with the Games.

“It was a second reason I wanted to come back and take a run at Paris because I definitely felt like I was capable of being more competitive.”

Redemption is not the best word with which to describe this third road. The chance to improve upon what came before nonetheless is a powerful driving force in Rappaport’s Olympic pursuit.

She is not trying any labels on what she might achieve should she qualify. Nevertheless,  she noted, “I do have seven World Series medals and I think that is an indicator that I am capable of competing for a medal.”

In addition, Paris will realistically represent her final shot at the Olympics. A home Games in Los Angeles dangles temptingly on the horizon, but Rappaport was not fully swayed.

“I think it’s just too far in the future. I’m going to be 37 at the Games in LA and, while we have seen plenty of athletes extend their careers into their late-30s and have success, I think there are other aspects of the sport I’d like to dabble in.”

Paris is therefore a do-or-die situation when it comes to settling her Olympic score.

Altogether, then, few athletes have a journey to Paris quite as multifaceted as Summer Rappaport. The personal resilience against setbacks, the intensity of the competition with her teammates, and the arc of improvement combine to create a truly fascinating narrative.

Whether Rappaport makes it to Paris is perhaps immaterial given it may come down a stroke of serendipity. At least from an external perspective, hers is an example of how the journey can sometimes be more intriguing than the destination. If all goes to plan, though, her story may just get the happy ending it deserves.

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