Taylor Knibb is an American triathlete who is competing in the triathlon at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The 23-year-old Knibb is a first-time Olympian, joining Summer Rappaport and Katie Zaferes in the women’s race. She is the youngest woman to ever earn a spot on the women’s U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team.
Knibb, who grew up in Washington D.C. and graduated from the Sidwell Friends School, was a swimmer and cross country runner at Cornell University. She is the daughter of Leslie and Robert Knibb and she has one brother, Jack, according to her biography on the Cornell Big Red website.
“Last year, I think I coped with the pressure in an unhealthy way and just threw myself into everything,” Knibb told TeamUSA.org. “I probably had one of my most demanding semesters academically. I was swimming a lot, I was running with Cornell, I was doing so, so much. And then I realized I probably wouldn’t have been ready. By admitting that, I know what I want to do differently this year, and I think I’ve set myself up to give myself the best chance.”
Here’s what you need to know about Taylor Knibb and her family:
1. Knibb’s Mother, Leslie Knibb, Is Also a Triathlete & Coach, Along With Being a Professor, While Her Father, Bob Knibb, Is the Co-Founder of a D.C. Investment Firm
Being a triathlete runs in Knibb’s family. Her mother, Leslie Knibb, also runs triathlons and coaches triathletes, according to a Wall Street Journal article from 2016. Taylor Knibb, who was then a freshman at Cornell, and her mother had competed in 10 races together at the time. Leslie Knibb told the newspaper, “Every once in while I sort of question, ‘Am I crazy?’ I know that a lot of my gal pals are not doing this. [Taylor] and I sort of look at each other and say, ‘I’m not crazy, are you?'”
Leslie Knibb is also a member of the DC Triathlon Club, according to its website. She told the site, “I’ve been enjoying triathlons on and off for the last 27 years, having been recruited by an old boyfriend to try Mrs. T’s Pierogies’ Chicago Triathlon in 1992. Working full-time limited my training and racing to sprints and Olympic-distance tris, but adhering to the adage, “when you can’t go faster, go longer”, I moved up to 70.3 and Ironman distances. I also started coaching in 2012 and worked with adults and for three years, some local elite youth (ages 13-15) and junior (16-19yrs old) triathletes, and worked (2014-2018) for the USAT Mid-Atlantic paratriathlon committee, supporting local Paratri athletes and launching a race series in 2017.”
Leslie Knibb is also a an adjunct instructor of health studies at American University, according to the college’s website. Knibb’s father, Bob Knibb, is the co-founder and partner of Washington Equity Partners, an investment firm, according to his LinkedIn profile.
2. Knibb’s Brother, Jack Knibb, Also Attends Cornell University & He Was a Runner in High School
Taylor Knibb’s brother, Jack Knibb, also attends Cornell University and ran track at their high school, Sidwell Friends, in Washington D.C. Jack Knibb is a set to graduate from Cornell in 2022, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Taylor Knibb told Slow Twitch, “My parents Robert and Leslie Knibb have always been very supportive of anything my brother Jack and I do. They know that I have fairly high standards for myself already, so they don’t really add any extra pressure. My mom really stresses humility. There’s always going to be someone smarter, faster, prettier, etc. than you, and anything in life can change dramatically in an instant.”
3. Knibb Enjoyed a ‘Family’ Atmosphere as a 2-Sport Athlete at Cornell & the University Runs in Her Blood
Cornell University is in Taylor Knibb’s blood. She and her brother both followed in their mother’s footsteps to the Ivy League school. Her mother graduated from Cornell in 1985, according to Taylor Knibb’s bio on the Cornell Big Red website. Several other family members on her mother’s side also attended Cornell, according to the bio, including, “her maternal grandparents, Joseph and Vera Simon, two cousins, Caroline and Peter Simon, and three uncles, Ernie, Joseph, and Wally Simon.”
Knibb’s coaches and teammates told the Cornell Sun the track team was like a “family” when she was part of it. Teammate Gracie Todd told the newspaper, “She has a focused but fun energy, and she is a total team player. She is always encouraging the team to stick together, which has a huge impact on our team culture, especially come race day.”
Knibb told TeamUSA.org, “I was almost too competitive for my own good. My mom never pushed me. If anything, I had to fight for every single little race I wanted to do and give all the reasons why. My punishment if I misbehaved was that I was not allowed to go to swim practice. So, I guess my parents kept me in the sport by making me want it.”
4. Knibb Credited Her Parents & Family With Helping Her Find the Success She Has Had
Knibb has credited her parents and family with helping her find the success she has had and has said they played a major part in her reaching her Olympic dream at such a young age. She told Slow Twitch, “My mom raced a fair amount when I was younger, and my dad would always take us to cheer her on. Once I began to understand what I was watching, I wanted to join in. So, my mom found a kids race for my brother and me to do, and I just kept wanting to do more from there.”
She added, “My parents have always been fairly active. My dad would bring my brother and I to cheer on my mom in races, so I was exposed to running and triathlons from an early age. I wanted to be like my mom in every way I could, so I eventually wanted to do races, too.”
Knibb told Slow Twitch about training with her mother, Leslie, “We ride together whenever it works for both of our schedules/training plans. I love training with my mom. She always makes the sessions more enjoyable. She’s not afraid to remind me of the little things – to like relax my elbows and shoulders on the bike. In the moment, it’s not always what I want to hear. But big picture, it’s what I want to hear. Heading out for a ride with her is especially fun when we’re exploring a new place or don’t have a structured workout. I still remember playing a cat-and-mouse game on our bikes a few summers ago. She’d give me a bit of a head start, and I had to hold her off as long as possible. Maybe I could hold her off a bit longer now, but I’m never sure with her. She’s a very fierce competitor!”
Knibb told TeamUSA.org about her earliest races, “They made the kids’ race very much like the adults’, where the day before you had to go to packet pickup and you got a wristband. I don’t even know what the wristband got me, but my mom got one at every race, so I thought, ‘This is cool!’ And that was probably the most important part of the race for me. The wristband, not the race itself.”
5. Knibb’s Family & Friends Will Be Cheering Her on From the U.S.
Knibb’s family and friends will be cheering her on from afar as she competes in her first Olympics in Tokyo. She told TeamUSA.org that she hopes to earn a spot on the women’s triathlon team for the Olympics that will be held in Los Angeles in 2028.
Knibb said, “My biggest goal would be LA 2028. I’ll be 30, and I feel like that’s when women tend to hit their prime. And that’s a home Olympics, so that would be pretty special. I want to keep my options open. I’m not planning to leave the sport anytime soon. I’ve been the youngest for so long, I think it’ll be more disconcerting when I’m not the youngest anymore. If I’m ever the oldest on the National Team, that will be the wakeup call.”