At the first race of this year’s Super League Championship series on September 4, Taylor Spivey narrowly missed out on the win after leading for most of the event. It was an exhausting day – the London race utilized a Triple Mix format that included a swim-bike-run, two minute break, run-bike-swim, four minute break, and then a pursuit with the deficit as bike-swim-run. But if you think Spivey is disappointed with finishing second behind France’s Cassandre Beaugrand, think again. The grueling race felt like a light at the end of the tunnel for the American speedster.
“I have had a difficult month personally, so I didn’t know how the race was going to go,” Spivey says. “I focused less on pushing myself in training, and simply had fun with my teammates this past month while training in Font Romeu, France. Overall, I went into this race to enjoy it with no pressure on myself and I ended up feeling really good all race, and just nearly took the tape.”
Spivey backed up her performance in London with a third-place finish at Super League Munich last weekend. Her tenacity shone through as she used her technical skills to her advantage on a course where many athletes were timid and struggled to handle their bikes in wet and cold conditions. 2021 Super League Champion Georgia Taylor-Brown broke the tape, and Spivey had a great battle with Great Britain’s Sophie Coldwell just barely edging her out in the final meters.
“We always seem to be near each other in races,” Spivey says. “We took turns pulling each lap and left it all out there on the final run. I have a lot of respect for her. She’s a strong powerful athlete and she got me in the last 50m sprint to the finish line.”
But again, Spivey is not disappointed. It’s quite the opposite:
“I didn’t know how my body would pull up going into this race,” Spivey says. “I felt unusually sore and tired all week prior, so it took me a while to get going in the race, but I managed to pull off a podium which I was really proud of despite how the body felt.”
Spivey’s recent success comes as no surprise, considering the caliber of athlete she is; a member of the US National team since 2016, Spivey has been on the podium at several World Triathlon Series events, including an overall podium in the 2021 season. Perhaps even more impressive is her consistency; she has placed in the top ten at every WTS Series event she has competed in since June of 2018. She has done this all, despite multiple setbacks that would discourage even the hardiest of athletes. But when you’re down, the only way to go is up – and that’s exactly the direction she’s heading right now.
Missing out on Olympic selection
Despite demonstrating that she was a force through consistent performances and strong mixed team relay appearances, Spivey was left off the Tokyo Olympic team in 2021.
“This was difficult for me,” Spivey says. “I felt like I had earned the spot, but despite COVID and strange race scenarios due to travel restrictions, the criteria never changed for our qualification. To me, it felt like I was holding onto it so tightly but then all of a sudden, it was ripped out of my hands.”
While two of the three spots were secured through meeting performance criteria in competition, the third and final spot for the Olympic team came down to the selection committee, where fellow countrywoman Katie Zaferes was chosen.
“While I know it was written a certain way, and I respect all of the athletes who were on the team, I believe there was a better way to go about not only writing the criteria, but also amending it given the circumstances in 2020/2021 to bring the best team to the Games.”
Spivey finished the 2021 season as third overall in the World Triathlon series, hungry for more and eager to get healthy.
The injury comeback
Through all of this, Spivey has been battling a chronic injury. About three to four years ago, Spivey started having issues with her plantar. It was on and off for a while, but with the anticipation of the Olympics in 2020, she pushed through the pain and when the Olympics were postponed due to the pandemic, she continued to push through it.
“Coming back from a lot of time off running due to a foot injury, I had a slow build into training this year,” Spivey admits. “With the guidance of my coach Paulo Sousa, he cautiously progressed my running from walk-runs, to short hill reps, to long tempos, then to some speed work. The year’s performances started out ok, but as the season went on, and I progressed my sessions, my performances progressed as well.”
When the 2021 season ended, she decided to address the injury and let the healing process begin. She wore a boot, took time off, had a PRP injection, and then embarked on the journey back to full health.
“It wasn’t easy, nothing worthwhile ever is,” Spivey says. “And it was often a rollercoaster with some pains and compensation issues. But with failure and adversity, you learn a lot. And these moments are telling in most people’s lives, athletes alike. I find that when I face difficult times, I often come back stronger. I am an incredibly gritty person, for better or for worse.”
A new outlook
2021 was a year of heartbreak for Spivey, but 2022 has proven to be a demonstration of the strength she gained from that time. Injury and Olympic selection behind her, she is only gaining momentum, with her eyes set on the Paris Games in 2024.
“Last year took a toll on me mentally and physically, and this year has had its challenges as well,” Spivey admits. “I know there’s another Olympic qualification period just around the corner, so I am doing my best to simply find the fun in the sport this year and not taking sport so seriously.”
It’s an attitude that is paying off. Spivey is in fine form as she gears up for the remaining Super League Championship events—including this weekend’s return to her home state of California for Super League Malibu. In addition, she will compete in the final two Super League events in Toulouse, France, on October 2, and at the Grand Finale event in Neom, Saudi Arabia, on October 29. Spivey will then go on to finish her season with WTS Bermuda and the World Triathlon Series final in Abu Dhabi.
Spivey has a fresh perspective after overcoming 2021’s adversity, and an energy that is fueling her as she lines up to race.
“I’ve been enjoying sessions with my group, going on more training adventures, having a bit more of a life outside of sport, and finding a bit of balance again,” Spivey says. “It’s been a wonderful change of pace and mindset.”