TOKYO — Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.) placed 16th as the top American man at the Tokyo ITU World Olympic Qualification Event, held Aug. 16 at Odaiba Marine Park. The race, which took place on the 2020 Olympic triathlon course, marked the first opportunity for U.S. triathletes to qualify for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Because no U.S. men finished in the top eight overall in today’s race, none were auto-selected to the U.S. Olympic Team. However, Summer Rappaport (Thornton, Colo.) qualified for the team yesterday with a fifth-place finish in the women’s elite race.
The men’s event featured an Olympic-distance 1,500-meter swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run. South Africa’s Henri Schoeman was first out of the swim in 18 minutes, 29 seconds, while Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.) was the first U.S. athlete in 19:09.
McDowell and Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.) found themselves in the first chase pack on the bike, and by the third of eight laps, they converged with the leaders to form a group of about 30. Meanwhile, McElroy and Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.) were in the midst of another chase group about 20 seconds back.
By the end of the 40k bike, Hemming was the only U.S. man still with the leaders. The gap back to the next big group, which now included McDowell, McElroy and Pearson, had grown to 1:45.
Early on the first lap of the run, the podium contenders started to separate themselves as Canada’s Tyler Mislawchuk, New Zealand’s Hayden Wilde, the Netherlands’ Casper Stornes, Belgium’s Jelle Geens and Germany’s Jonas Schomburg set out at a blistering pace. As Hemming lost some ground on the leaders, McElroy dug deep from the chase pack to run a 30:50 10k — the fifth-fastest run of the field.
Ultimately, it was Mislawchuk who took the tape with a time of 1:49:51. Stornes claimed the silver medal in 1:49:55, and Wilde completed podium in 1:50:03.
Crossing the line in 1:52:00, McElroy finished a respectable 16th out of 67 competitors.
“I think today, what made the difference for me was nutrition. I really focused on getting a lot of calories on the bike, a lot of water on the run,” McElroy said. “And just maintaining composure. I’m working with a mind specialist just to be strong mentally, and today I was in a good mindset. You’d always like to finish a little higher, but today I’m happy with my performance.”
McElroy made history in June by winning a silver medal at the ITU World Triathlon Series stop in Leeds, England — just the second WTS medal for a U.S. man in history and the first since Jarrod Shoemaker in 2009.
“It’s been a really fun season,” McElroy said. “During the middle of (today’s) race I had a moment where I was like, ‘Dude, if I get dropped from this pack, it’s really hard — but just enjoy the process and have fun.’ Because once the fun isn’t there and it becomes more of a job, it’s hard to stay positive.”
Pearson was the second U.S. man across the line in 25th (1:52:54), followed by Hemming in 27th (1:53:14). Rounding out the U.S. contingent were McDowell in 32nd (1:53:56) and Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D.) in 43rd (1:57:52).
Per USA Triathlon Olympic selection criteria, two U.S. athletes could have qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team in today’s race if both athletes finished on the podium (top three). If one U.S. athlete finished on the podium and another was in the top eight, then both would also qualify. If no one reached the podium, the single highest-ranking athlete in the top eight would earn a spot.
The next auto-selection opportunity for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Triathlon Team is the 2020 ITU World Triathlon Series stop in Yokohama, Japan, on May 16-17. At that event, up to two U.S. men may be auto-selected, based on the same auto-qualifying criteria used at the Tokyo test event. One additional U.S. woman may qualify, but she must finish on the podium. After the Yokohama race, any remaining available Olympic slots will be selected via discretion by the USA Triathlon Games Athletes Selection Committee.
Olympic Team selections are subject to the U.S. earning its predicted two to three country slots per gender at the conclusion of the ITU Olympic Qualification Period in 2020. In addition, all U.S. Olympic Team nominations are pending final approval by the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.
In addition to the individual elite competitions, race week at the Tokyo ITU World Olympic Qualification Event also includes an ITU Paratriathlon World Cup (Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET/Saturday at 6:30 a.m. local time) and an elite Mixed Relay event (Saturday at 7 p.m. ET/Sunday at 8 a.m. local time). For complete paratriathlon start lists, click here. The final four-person Mixed Relay team rosters will be available on race morning at triathlon.org.
All races will be broadcast live at triathlonlive.tv, and subscriptions are available for purchase.
Tokyo ITU World Olympic Qualification Event
1,500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run
Elite Men — Complete Results
1. Tyler Mislawchuk (CAN), 1:49:51
2. Casper Stornes (NOR), 1:49:55
3. Hayden Wilde (NZL), 1:50:03
16. Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.), 1:52:00
25. Morgan Pearson (Boulder, Colo.), 1:52:54
27. Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.), 1:53:14
32. Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.), 1:53:56
43. Tony Smoragiewicz (Rapid City, S.D.), 1:57:52
About USA Triathlon
USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 events and connects with more than 400,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work at the grassroots level with athletes, coaches, and race directors — as well as the USA Triathlon Foundation — USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).