Prior to taking off in the men’s triathlon at the Tokyo Olympics, former Colorado track standout Morgan Pearson said he simply wanted to turn in a race worthy of personal pride.
As it was his Olympics debut, there is no doubt it was a memorable experience for the former Buffaloes distance specialist. But, unfortunately for Pearson, some of those moments might be memorable for all the wrong reasons.
On Sunday evening — Monday morning in Tokyo — Pearson finished 42nd in the triathlon, fading behind the leading pace-setters during the swim and bike portions of the event, and then having to serve a penalty before attempting to make up ground in the run, his strongest event.
It remained a historical event for Team USA as Pearson’s teammate, Kevin McDowell, finished sixth. It was the top finish ever by a USA athlete in the men’s triathlon, topping Hunter Kemper’s seventh-place finish in the 2008 Games in Beijing.
Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt ran away from the pack to claim the gold medal, finishing in 1 hour, 45 minutes, 4 seconds, followed by Great Britain’s Alex Yee. Hayden Wilde from New Zealand captured the bronze medal.
Pearson, who was a seven-time All-American in track and cross country at CU, was 23rd coming out of the 1.5-kilometer swim but, during the transition phase, he was assessed a 15-second penalty for improperly storing some of his equipment. That pause was served entering the run, and Pearson entered his strongest event well back of the pace in 46th-place.
Pearson finished in 1:52.05, which was 7:01 behind Blummenfelt. McDowell finished in 1:45.54, 50 seconds behind Blummenfelt. Pearson also will compete for the US in the Mixed Relay, which begins Friday.
“It was a tough day. That’s not what I wanted to do, but I’m glad I’m here, and I auto-qualified, so no one can take that away from me,” Pearson said. “I’m sure in a few days, a few weeks, I’ll be more excited about it. I know Kevin had a really good race, so that’s really exciting for him. I was taking the run easy because I know we have the Mixed Relay in a few days — and it’s the Olympics, I didn’t want to drop out, I wanted to finish.”