Matt McElroy Gets First ITU World Cup Win in Tongyeong, Kevin McDowell Takes Bronze

By USA Triathlon | Oct. 19, 2019, 1:18 p.m. (ET)

TONGYEONG, South Korea — Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.) earned his first career ITU Triathlon World Cup victory Saturday in Tongyeong, leading a strong contingent of U.S. men as Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.) claimed bronze and Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.) took fifth. Sophie Chase (Burke, Va.) also performed well, earning a career-best fourth-place finish in the elite women’s race.

Tongyeong has been a regular stop on the ITU World Cup calendar since 2009, featuring a 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run. 

In the men’s race, Slovakia’s Richard Varga was first out of the water in 7 minutes, 42 seconds. He was followed by Chile’s Diego Moya, Spain’s Antonio Serrat Seoane, Canada’s Matthew Sharpe and the United States’ William Huffman (Colleyville, Texas), all of whom exited the water under the eight-minute mark. 

The top swimmers got out to an early lead on the bike, but they were caught by the chasers on the second lap — bringing McElroy, McDowell and Hemming back into the mix. By the final kilometers on the bike, it became clear that the medals would come down to a footrace.

McElroy used his NCAA Division I run speed to clock a 14:41 5k, breaking the tape with a total time of 51:25. David Castro Fajardo of Spain crossed the line eight seconds later to take silver, and McDowell was just two seconds behind the Spaniard for bronze.

The medal is McElroy’s seventh on the ITU World Cup circuit, but his first time atop the podium.

“I was just running on pure emotion,” McElroy said. “I feel great and tried to have fun today. As soon as I saw the TV, I knew I had a bit of a gap from fourth and that I had a podium. I kicked it up on the hill, then came flying down and just didn’t look back.”

It has been a breakout 2019 season for McElroy. He took silver at ITU World Triathlon Leeds in June, becoming just the second U.S. man in history — and the first since 2009 — to medal in a WTS race. He went on to claim bronze at the Nur-Sultan ITU World Cup in Kazakhstan, before finishing as the top U.S. man at the Tokyo ITU World Olympic Qualification Event. 

McDowell’s bronze, marks his sixth career ITU World Cup medal and his second this season, as he also claimed bronze in Cagliari, Italy, in May.

“I just went for it and was able to latch onto Matt (McElroy) and hang on,” McDowell said. “I am pretty pleased with third. I have had some highs and lows this year and I have been working on the mental side, so I’m happy with today.”

Hemming also had a strong race, running a 14:59 5k that culminated in a photo finish with Switzerland’s Max Studer. Studer ultimately took fourth and Hemming fifth, both recording identical times of 51:41.

Huffman ultimately finished 28th in 52:26. Also representing the U.S. in the men’s race was Jason West (Boulder, Colo.), who took 36th with a time of 52:38.

Chase was the sole U.S. competitor in the women’s race. Brazil’s Vittoria Lopes, Hungary’s Zsanett Bragmayer, Belgium’s Valerie Barthelemy, Portugal’s Helena Carvalho and Australia’s Emma Jeffcoat were the first five out of the water. Their lead didn’t last long though, as a chase group led by Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig was able to latch on by the second lap. Chase was among the 30-strong pack of contenders by the time they hit the second transition. 

A former NCAA Division I runner at Stanford University, Chase got out to a fast start on the run and quickly put herself in the mix for the medals. 

France’s Sandra Dodet and Japan’s Ai Ueda traded spots at the front of the race, and Dodet ultimately pulled ahead down the finish chute to take gold in 57:10. Ueda crossed the line for silver in 57:13, and Belgium’s Claire Michel would round out the podium in 57:18.    

Chase ran her way to fourth in 57:32, clocking fourth fastest 5k of the day in 17:10. Her previous career best ITU World Cup finish had been ninth. 

Chase is in just her third season as an elite triathlete. She represented the U.S. at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, in July, finishing just off the podium in fourth. 

The ITU World Cup circuit continues next Saturday, Oct. 26, in Miyazaki, Japan.

Tongyeong ITU Triathlon World Cup
750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run

Elite Men — Complete Results

1. Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.), 51:25
2. David Castro Fajardo (ESP), 51:33
3. Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.), 51:35

U.S. Finishers
1. Matt McElroy (Huntington Beach, Calif.), 51:25
3. Kevin McDowell (Phoenix, Ariz.), 51:35
5. Eli Hemming (Kiowa, Colo.), 51:41
28. William Huffman (Colleyville, Texas), 52:26
36. Jason West (Boulder, Colo.), 52:38

Elite Women — Complete Results

1. Sandra Dodet (FRA), 57:10
2. Ai Ueda (JPN), 57:13
3. Claire Michel (BEL), 57:18

U.S. Finishers
4. Sophie Chase (Burke, Va.), 57:32

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 Committee (USOC).