Katie Hursey Zaferes is an American triathlete from Maryland who is competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Zaferes is married to fellow triathlete Tommy Zaferes. The 32-year-old athlete is competing in her second Olympics after previously racing in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Zaferes is a graduate of Syracuse University, where she was a member of the cross country and track and field teams. Ahead of the 2020 Olympics, Zaferes told TeamUSA.org, “Before Rio, I was listening and doing. I was focused on my limitations. I forgot my strengths. Now, when I race, I think: ‘Let’s see what I can do,’ rather than: ‘This is what I need to do.'”
Zaferes told PressBoxOnline, “I really liked having the three disciplines and after learning how to do the bike, I’m like, ‘It’s my type of sport,’ in the sense that you can’t get bored.” Zaferes was born in Hampstead, Maryland, and graduated from North Carroll High School before attending Syracuse.
“I think I really just have to race like me, which is a really nice feeling to know that if I race at my best then my best should be good enough and I don’t have to do anything super crazy,” Zaferes told PressBoxOnline. “I’m really looking forward to just using everything I learned since Rio and putting it into place for Tokyo.”
Here’s what you need to know about Katie Zaferes’ husband, Tommy Zaferes, and her family:
1. Zaferes’ Father Died in April 2021 at the Age of 60 & She Is Competing in Honor of Him at the Olympics
Zaferes will be competing in the Olympics with a heavy heart. Her father, Bill Hursey, who raced alongside her in her first triathlon, died suddenly at 60 in April 2021. She told Glenn Clark Radio in July 2021, “It was really unexpected. The worst fear I ever had was losing my parents. You know you’re going to lose your parents eventually, but not as early. With my dad, he’s so intertwined in my triathlon career and journey.” She raced for the first time after his death during an Olympic qualifying event in Europe. She said she remembered the text messages he would send her before her races, filled with swimmer, biker, runner and heart emojis, according to PressBoxOnline. She said she thought to herself, “Alright dad, you need to help me. You need to be here with me.”
Zaferes added, “After that race, I was like, ‘You know what, as nice of a thought that is, I’ve never relied on anyone for racing. I always enjoyed bringing people along for the journey, but not depending on them for a specific outcome or for me to do well. And so moving on, I know that my dad’s watching me but he’s watching me in the same way he always has, and when it comes to triathlon, I know what to do. As long as we do [our best], he’s proud of us … so my plan is to race hard and have fun.”
She paid tribute to him in an Instagram post on Father’s Day, “This day brings conflicting feelings this year. It’s a hard day when the fact that my Dad isn’t here is glaringly obvious. However in our loss I also feel so much gratitude to have had my dad. Father’s Day was the first triathlon I ever did, and it was with him. At the time I thought I was doing it for my dad, only to find out many years later it was all a scheme to get me introduced to the sport.” She added:
Once I agreed to do it with him, he actually had to learn how to swim. Something that he wasn’t comfortable with. We would go to the pool and I would give him lessons and then he would go home and watch “YouToo” videos to learn. On the day of the race I remember watching him swim the longest 400 meter swim. He made his way across the pool each lap with such determination and such a smile at the end. He would go on to do many more triathlons with many more stories about his swims (and getting to know the kayakers who would redirect him).
My take away was always just how resilient, brave and somewhat stubborn he was. How willing he was to put himself in an uncomfortable growth situation. How dedicated he was to being better. The things he would do for others. And how he always had fun and came out with a story no matter what the scenario. He made me so proud. There are so many things I’ve learned from my dad and this is just a small sampling.
Zaferes also posted a tribute to her mother, Mary Lynn Hursey, on Mother’s Day. She wrote, “How lucky I am to have the Mom that I have. A mom who is strong in ways I wish she never had to be. Who thinks of others even when her whole world is turned upside down. A mom who holds her 31 year old daughter as she cries while she herself is hurting. Who is always there-knowing exactly what is needed in each life moment.”
Zaferes added, “She is always present to show us how to prevail when things are really hard. To help push us onwards while knowing she will be right there in the moments we need her. My mom guides, loves and gives. Her strength is one that is enduringly gentle. One that has shaped me and my sisters into the people we are today. I am so thankful for her unyielding support, guidance and love. And I am thankful for all she has taught and continues to teach me with each passing day. Thank you Mom for being you, and for being my mom. I love you so much. Happy Mother’s Day 💗”
In another post about her father on Instagram, Zaferes wrote, “There’s nothing I wouldn’t give to see that mischievous joy filled smile again. Or those soft eyes full of tenderness and love. Or to be held in your sturdy arms. Or hear you joke or give me a heart to heart on life. To just sit and be with you. … His joy for life, his family, and friends was obvious. His eyes would glisten when he talked about something that excited him. And all he wanted for us all is happiness; with his favorite saying being that he just wants us to be ‘humble and kind.'”
She added, “There’s so much more I want to say but if you even got to spend a moment with my dad you know how truly amazing he was.”
2. Zaferes Has 2 Siblings, an Older Sister, Kristen, & a Younger Sister, Karly
Zaferes is one of three children. She has an older sister, Kristin, and a younger sister, Karly, according to her biography on the Syracuse University sports website. Her sister, Kristen, was also a runner. She ran track at York College, according to the school’s website. Her sister, Karly, was a swimmer, and swam at Bloomsburg University.
Zaferes told the Baltimore Sun in 2016, “My [parents] were athletes growing up and through high school and college. We were an active family. I have no idea how my mom balanced everything. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, but it’s crazy to think about all the chauffeuring that [my mom] did. My older sister, Kristen, was also a runner and that was a big thing for when I switched to running. I didn’t want to stomp on her domain. She was so welcoming and it was kind of cool being on the same [track] team for one year. My little sister, Karly, is a swimmer and [she] stuck with swimming.”
Karly is now a nurse. Her sister posted on Facebook in 2018, “How is it that my little sister is all grown up and adulting already?! So proud of Karly for passing her boards and officially becoming a Registered Nurse! We are so proud of you and excited for this next new journey!” Kristen works in community health care at a hospital in Maryland.
3. Zaferes & Her Husband Have Been Married Since 2015 & He Is Also in Tokyo, as a Photographer
Katie Zaferes and her fellow triathlete husband, Tommy Zaferes, have been married since 2015. She wrote on Instagram in January 2021, “Happy 6th anniversary to my amazing husband! Everyday I’m so thankful that you are in my life and think how lucky I am to wake up beside you each and every day. In my gratitude journal you are the most common denominator as you do little things that just make each day so much better. We’re blessed in so many ways and I look forward to the adventures that are yet to be had with you by my side.”
Tommy Zaferes is also a photographer, along with being a triathlete, according to his Instagram page. His talent in photography also earned him a ticket to Japan. He wrote on Instagram, “I’ve kept this announcement under wraps since December 2018 because I was waiting until I could finally announce that Katie and I are BOTH going to the #TokyoOlympics! I found out 2.5yrs ago that I was selected to be officially accredited and working for @worldtriathlon helping to cover the men’s, women’s and team relay events, and of course, Katie will be competing 🙌 @kzaferes6 and I have been many places together around the world, but this one will definitely be one of the most special experiences of all time!”
Before they headed to the Olympics, Katie wrote on Instagram, “Sappy post alert 🚨 Today @tzaferes dropped me off at the airport as I head to Tokyo. He has been so steadfast in his support and making sure I am all sorted and helping in whatever way he can. When there were bumpy parts he’d calmly and quickly assist while reassuring we’d figure it out. No panic, no pressure. It made all the difference in the smoothness and happiness of this lead up. Whether it be training, logistics, a helping hand or a hug during those moments of feeling overwhelmed, he’s always there filling whatever role is needed at the time. I have an endless amount of gratitude and love for this guy. In reality we won’t see each other much once he gets to Tokyo (a few days later than me) but I look forward to each of those moments until we properly reunite at our home!”
4. Zaferes & Her Husband Live in North Carolina & Their Previous Home in California Was Featured on the TV Show ‘Tiny House Nation’
Katie and Tommy Zaferes live together in Cary, North Carolina. They previously lived in California, and their home was featured on the A&E TV show Tiny House Nation in 2017. She told Team USA at the time, ““The tiny house is something that, at least for now, works as we’re living this ITU lifestyle of traveling all over and not being in one location. In four years, we’ll have to re-evaluate.”
They ended up buying a house in North Carolina in January 2021. She wrote on Instagram, “A couple days after our 6th anniversary @tzaferes and I moved into our new home! This whole process has been so amazing from finding our dream home that we couldn’t have even dreamed up to actually becoming the owners of it was both surreal and serendipitous. … Our amazing parents drove all our belongings from both California and Maryland to our house and arrived yesterday to help us with moving in. It is so special to be able to share our home with them. Even though our house feels pretty empty in the furniture realm it’s filled to the brim with love, and we can’t wait to continue to add to that and fill it up with memories of our own.”
She told Cary Magazine in June 2021, “We’ve traveled so much that we know what we like, and what we want in places, so it didn’t take us long to figure out that the area was for us. It never seemed scary. We bought our house without even seeing it, because we knew what we wanted. I love the adventures now I’m having on the road. But I’m so excited for when we are really settled down and get to explore more of Cary in a different way, and see it through different phases of our life.”
5. Zaferes Will Be Cheered on From Afar by Her Family & Friends While She Races in Tokyo
Zaferes will have the support of her husband in Tokyo during her race, and her family and friends will cheer her on from afar across the United States, from California to Maryland to Syracuse. Her nephews sent her a video giving her tips and wishing her luck in the days before the race:
USA Triathlon shared the video, captioning it, “The young nephews of U.S. Olympic Triathlete Katie Zaferes sent her some last-minute triathlon tips to help her perform at her best in Tokyo. Their advice? 1. Remember to do a cannonball at Swim Start 2. Use the easiest gear on the bike and go really fast 3. Use your arms for extra energy on the run 4. Eat chocolate.” She wrote on Facebook in response, “Can’t wait to take these little guys’ advice come race day 😉♥️☺️😆 Love them so much!”
Zaferes added on Facebook, “This experience has been so joyful and inspiring. In Rio I only went to the village the final days of the Olympics and it had basically cleared out by then. It’s been so awesome being immersed in this community of athletes and support crew. I love meeting new people, learning about their sports and can’t wait to follow along as everyone who has poured their hearts and souls into this lets it all out on competition day and I look forward to doing that myself!”