Hailey Danz five years ago celebrated a silver medal for the USA at the triathlon at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.
She entered the women’s PTS2 triathlon at the Paralympics in Tokyo having already celebrated a personal win, coming into the competition saying, “For the first time in my life, I’m proud to be gay.”
She was a kilometer short of ending up golden.
Danz used a powerful bike leg to surge from fourth place to the lead in this year’s triathlon. However, fellow American and 2016 Paralympic triathlon gold medalist Allysa Seely passed Danz at the 4-kilometer mark of the final run phase and powered to the win in 1:14:03.
Danz will head home with the event’s silver medal. Italy’s Veronica Yoko Plebani won the bronze.
The challenge to a strong American contingent was thrown down in the swim. Japan’s Yukako Hata built a 12-second lead on the USA’s Melissa Stockwell, who was third in Rio in 2016. Danz sat fourth coming out the water, 37 seconds back. Seely was fifth.
Danz’s push for a podium spot rested on her strategy for the bike.
“My goal really was to tear it up through the bike course and create as much of a gap as I could out there,” Danz said to NBC Sports after the race.
She crushed that goal. Danz stormed to the lead through the first of four laps through the 5-kilometer bike circuit. She faced a challenge at 16 kilometers from Britain’s Fran Brown, who is known as a strong cyclist. Brown took the lead, but Danz fought back to retake the lead a few corners later.
Danz pressed her advantage through the transition to the final 5-kilometer run on a blistering Tokyo morning. She was 11 seconds ahead of Brown as she pushed towards a possible gold medal. She was also 1:26 ahead of Seely, who entered the run in fourth place.
Danz held strong through three laps on the 1.25-mile run circuit, but Seely’s strength as a runner consistently whittled the gap. She moved from fourth to second right behind Ganz. Seely passed her teammate and training partner in the final kilometer and raced away to a 55-second win for her second consecutive triathlon gold medal at the Paralympics.
Coming down the final straight to complete a USA 1-2 finish, Danz was all smiles even through the heat and perhaps disappointment. The boost of energy was foretold in her Instagram coming out message from last November.
I can’t afford to waste any more energy building dams. Because I have far more important things to do with all that energy.
The energy powered Danz to her second Paralympic silver medal, and another medal for Team LGBTQ’s tally at these Games.