Hammer earned his first World Triathlon Para Series medal since 2017.
LEEDS, England — Chris Hammer (Elkins, W.V.), Kendall Gretsch (Downers Grove, Ill.), Hailey Danz (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Kelly Elmlinger (San Antonio, Texas) won gold medals Saturday at the second World Triathlon Para Series stop of the season in Leeds, England, leading the U.S. contingent on a day that saw eight Americans reach the podium overall.
While Leeds was not a direct qualifying event for the 2020 U.S. Paralympic Triathlon Team, the race was a chance for athletes to earn valuable points toward their Paralympic ranking — which helps the U.S. team earn country quota slots for the Paralympic Games and may factor into discretionary selection for the U.S. Paralympic Team. Click here for a complete explanation of 2020 U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Triathlon Team qualifying.
Elite paratriathletes battled hot conditions Saturday on the sprint-distance course, which featured a 750-meter swim in Waterloo Lake followed by a 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run in and around Leeds’ Roundhay Park.
Hammer’s victory in the men’s PTS5 division was his first at the World Para Series level since 2017, and it came in one of the closest races of the day. A former NCAA Division II track and cross-country All-American, Hammer took the lead on the run with a 14-minute, 55-second 5k — the only athlete to run under 15:30. He crossed the line in 1:01:44, just nine seconds ahead of silver medalist Yannick Borseaux of France and 35 seconds ahead of bronze medalist Jairo Ruiz Lopez of Spain.
Gretsch earned her second straight gold in the women’s PTWC category, having also claimed victory three weeks ago at the series opener in Yokohama, Japan. She broke the tape in 1:19:40, with an astounding margin of victory — nearly six minutes ahead of her closest competitor, Eva María Moral Pedrero of Spain.
Danz used a race-leading 41:20 bike split to grab her first World Para Series victory since the 2015 Rio de Janeiro World Paratriathlon Event. Her time of 1:22:09 in the women’s PTS2 category was more than two-and-a-half minutes faster than runner-up Veronica Yoko Plebani of Italy. Danz’s U.S. teammate Melissa Stockwell (Colorado Springs, Colo.) was close behind Plebani, taking the bronze in 1:25:29.
Elmlinger brought home a gold medal as the sole competitor in the women’s PTS4 category, finishing with a time of 1:17:37. In the men’s PTS2 category, Adam Popp (Arlington, Va.) earned his second consecutive World Para Series bronze with a time of 1:20:26.
Eric McElvenny (Pittsburgh, Pa.) had a breakthrough race in the men’s PTS4 category, earning his first career World Para Series medal against one of the deepest fields of the day. France’s Alexis Hanquinquant and Great Britain’s Michael Taylor were the first two across the line in 1:00:26 and 1:05:56, respectively. The race for bronze was a battle, though. McElvenny edged Luxembourg’s Joe Kurt by one second at the line (1:07:03 to 1:07:04) to take bronze, and the fifth- and sixth-place finishers were also less than a minute out from the podium.
The women’s PTS5 category also saw a thrilling sprint finish. Great Britain’s Lauren Steadman broke the tape for gold in 1:06:04. Less than a minute later, British compatriot Claire Cashmore approached the finish chute neck-and-neck with 2016 U.S. Paralympic gold medalist Grace Norman (Jamestown, Ohio). Cashmore ultimately outkicked Norman for silver in 1:06:54, and Norman crossed the line four seconds later to take bronze.
Also racing for the U.S. in Leeds were Aaron Scheidies (Seattle, Wash.) and guide Ben Collins (Seattle, Wash.), who placed fifth in the men’s PTVI category, and Brad Snyder (Baltimore, Md.), with guide Greg Billington (San Francisco, Calif.), who took seventh for PTVI men. Elizabeth Baker (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) and guide Jillian Elliott (Gig Harbor, Wash.) finished eighth for PTVI women, and Howie Sanborn (Colorado Springs, Colo.) was eighth in the men’s PTWC category.
While Leeds marked the final World Triathlon Para Series race before U.S. Paralympic Team selection, several Americans will compete next weekend at a World Triathlon Para Cup in Besancon, France. Another World Triathlon Para Cup is scheduled for June 20 in A Coruna, Spain. Then on June 27, U.S. athletes will race in their final Key Selection Event for the U.S. Paralympic Team, the Americas Triathlon Para Championships in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.
The complete 2020 U.S. Paralympic Team roster will be named in early July, and the Paralympic Games are scheduled for Aug. 24-Sept. 5.
Racing action continues in Leeds tomorrow with the elite World Triathlon Championship Series races, which will be broadcast live at TriathlonLIVE.tv and Flotrack. The elite women race first at 8:08 a.m. ET (1:08 p.m. local time), followed by the men at 10:54 a.m. ET (3:54 p.m. local time).
World Triathlon Para Series Leeds
750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run | Complete Results
1. Kendall Gretsch (Downers Grove, Ill.), 1:19:40
9. Howie Sanborn (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:27:36
1. Hailey Danz (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:22:09
3. Melissa Stockwell (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 1:25:29
3. Adam Popp (Arlington, Va.), 1:20:26
3. Eric McElvenny (Pittsburgh, Pa.), 1:07:03
1. Kelly Elmlinger (San Antonio, Texas), 1:17:37
1. Chris Hammer (Elkins, W.V.), 1:01:44
3. Grace Norman (Jamestown, Ohio), 1:06:58
5. Aaron Scheidies (Seattle, Wash.), with guide Ben Collins (Seattle, Wash.), 1:03:44
7. Brad Snyder (Baltimore, Md.), with guide Greg Billington (San Francisco, Calif.), 1:05:13
8. Elizabeth Baker (Signal Mountain, Tenn.), with guide Jillian Elliott (Gig Harbor, Wash.), 1:20:21
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 4,000 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 World Triathlon Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of World Triathlon and the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC).