Jessica Harrison storms to first World Cup title in Tongyeong
More than 13 years after her first ITU World Cup appearance, France’s Jessica Harrison finally stood atop the podium with gold. She entered the Tongyeong ITU Triathlon World Cup brimming with confidence following her recent French National Championship win and season-best at the World Championship Grand Final in Beijing. But her victory in Tongyeong today, her first World Cup title, was a long awaited and special moment for Harrison, a veteran whose ITU career began in 1995.
“It went as well as I could have expected. It’s feels pretty good, it’s been a long time coming,” said Harrison after the race. “I’ve been racing World Cups since 1998 so little by little I’ve been getting up the ladder and I hope that could be an inspiration for the girls who aren’t world beaters when they’re 18. With hard work and really concentrating on the details, you can get there in the end and I’m really happy.”
The morning saw 41 women dive into Tongyeong bay for a two-lap, 1.5km wetsuit swim. Line Jensen (DEN) had gained twenty seconds over her nearest challengers exiting the swim, but Harrison (FRA) had already placed herself at the front leaving T2 in second place.
Jensen’s lead was short lived as she was swallowed by the chase pack on the first lap by a group that included Harrison, Carole Peon (FRA), Yun-Jung Jang (KOR), Mariko Adachi (JPN), Aileen Morrison (IRL) and Zurine Rodriguez (ESP).
The hilly bike course suited strong riders like Harrison who took her turn to head up the pack of 12 that continued out front for the remainder of the ride. A chase pack containing Kiyomi Niwata (JPN), Mateja Simic (SLO) and Kathrin Muller (GER) retained a 75-second deficit all the way into T2.
The leading 12 athletes began the run within seconds of one another, but the group soon separated as both the day and the race heated up. Harrison began to pull away almost immediately on the fast run course and behind her the field was spreading out. After the first lap Morrison was eight seconds behind in pursuit of Harrison with Rodriguez a further seven seconds back.
Meanwhile, Niwata and Muller had steamed onto the run and by the second lap had overtaken a number of the women who were in the lead group. But by the bell lap, Harrison was way out in front and proved untouchable all the way to the finish tape, celebrating her first ever ITU victory. She broke the tape at 2 hours and 41 seconds.
“It’s been a tough season to be honest, up until Beijing,” said Harrison. “I picked up a pneumonia in Mooloolaba and it wiped me out for quite a while so it took a long time to get back up to the level that you need to be at to compete against the girls, especially the younger girls these days. I had a really good race in Beijing and that’s been a springboard for a nice end of season. I’m just happy to be back on form.”
Morrison, less than a week after her fourth place finish in the Huatulco ITU Triathlon World Cup celebrates her second World Cup silver of the season, after Ishigaki, holding her second place spot throughout the run.
“I’m pretty pleased with that, it was all about getting a good swim. I didn’t expect Jess to run so fast but she put on a solid run there and I couldn’t stay with her. But I’m delighted with second,” said Morrison.
Rodriguez similarly maintained her third place position during the run to claim her first ITU Triathlon World Cup podium, crossing the line nine seconds behind Morrison for the bronze.
Peon made an impressive return to competition, finishing fourth after an injury sidelined her since London. Adachi rounded out the top-5.
Muller and Niwata both made up an incredible distance on the run to finish 7th and 8th respectively. Jang was the top finisher for the home team, crossing the line in 14th place, the best World Cup showing of her career.