David McNamee: Background, career highlights, quotes

He's the most successful British male triathlete at the Ironman World Champs… yes, it's Scotland's David McNamee. Here's everything you need to know about one of the fastest long-distance athletes in history

David McNamee of Great Britain gets a champagne shower during the flower ceremony of Ironman 70.3 Kraichgau on June 7, 2015 in Kraichgau, Germany

David McNamee is the only British man to make the podium at Kona. And he done so twice, nearly breaking the eight-hour barrier second time around. Let’s meet Scotland’s finest… 

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Who is David McNamee?

Hailing from Ayrshire but now resident in Catalunya, David McNamee took up triathlon as “a bored swimmer who always loved to go for a run”. His prowess on two feet has served him well ever since in a career where medals have rained down on him.

Starting out in short-course racing, McNamee enjoyed early success, grabbing an U23 world championship silver in 2011. Having never set the ITU circuit ablaze, he moved up distance-wise in his mid-twenties, a decision that surprised many with the Rio Olympics just 18 months away.

He was rational in his reasoning, explaining that, given the dominance of Alistair and Jonny Brownlee brothers, he was by no means a shoo-in for that final Olympic slot in the Team GB squad. McNamee believed he could prosper elsewhere.

He was right. In the spring of 2015, the Scot took bronze in Mallorca on his Ironman 70.3 debut. Two months later, he won his second-ever full-distance race, a dominant run securing him the Ironman UK title.

But it was in Kona where McNamee truly forged his reputation and made his indelible mark in the history books. In 2017, he took third place at the world championships, becoming the first British man to stand on the podium in Hawaii.

He repeated the feat the following October – and this was an even more impressive performance. Having started the run down in 19th place, McNamee powered through the field to claim his second bronze, in the process posting the third-fastest time in Kona history.

The two men ahead of him – Patrick Lange and Bart Aernouts – were the first to ever go sub-eight hours.

Unable to claim a hat-trick of medals the following year after sickness forced his retirement, McNamee has yet to rediscover those Hawaiian heights.

But at the age of 34, and with his season continuing to revolve around the world champs, a third Kona medal remains top of his agenda.

How old is David McNamee?

David McNamee was born on April 20, 1988, making him 34 years of age.

David McNamee’s career highlights

David McNamee competes during Ironman Andorra in 2021 (Credit: Eric Alonso/Getty Images for Ironman)

May 2010: European Cup silver in Strathclyde

Taking advantage of racing on home soil, the Scot records the first podium finish of his nascent elite career, coming home ahead of future stars Aaron Royle and Vincent Luis.

September 2011: A world championship silver

David McNamee on the podium at ITU Grand Final Beijing 2011. (Credit: Delly Carr/ITU)

At the ITU Grand Final in Beijing, McNamee takes silver in the U23 world championship race, finishing five seconds behind compatriot Matt Sharp. Bronze medallist Tom Bishop makes it an all-Brit podium.

June 2012: A maiden ITU top-10 appearance

In his 10th ITU World Triathlon Series event as an elite racer, McNamee claims his first-ever top-10 placing in the series, in the process posting the race’s second-fastest bike leg.

July 2014: Strong showing at the Glasgow Commonwealths

Racing in the colours of Scotland, McNamee finishes seventh on home territory in a sterling field that includes the Brownlee brothers, South African Richard Murray and Australia’s Ryan Bailie.

McNamee also finishes in seventh position in the mixed relay on the same day.

May 2015: Medal-winning move to middle distance

Despite the Rio Olympics beginning to appear on the horizon, At the age of 26, McNamee changes tack and sets his sights on long-course racing.

While many raise a quizzical eyebrow, it proves to be a wise decision as the Scot takes bronze on his Ironman 70.3 debut in Mallorca. He repeats the feat a month later in Kraichgau in south-west Germany (see main image).

July 2015: A golden time in Lancashire

David McNamee wins his first Ironman on home soil, on 19 July, 2015 in Bolton, England. (Credit: Stephen Pond/Getty Images)

In only his second Ironman race (he finished seventh at Ironman South Africa in March), McNamee breaks the tape in Bolton to become the new Ironman UK champion.

In the process, he qualifies for his first world championships in Kona, where he finishes 11th in October.

May 2016: A bronze at Ironman Lanzarote

Further enhancement of his Ironman reputation comes with finishing third in the Canaries, just one place behind reigning world champ Jan Frodeno.

McNamee follows this fine performance with a pair of half-distance victories in the Challenge series, in Galway and Poznan.

October 2017: A proud climb onto the Kona podium

Five races, five medals. It’s a fine season for McNamee. After bronze at Ironman South Africa – plus 70.3 wins in Mallorca and Dublin, either side of victory at Challenge Salou – McNamee flies off to Hawaii for his third Kona experience.

He returns home with a bronze in his luggage, beaten only by Germany’s Patrick Lange and Lionel Sanders of Canada.

October 2018: History repeating – just quicker

David McNamee celebrates his third place at the 2018 Ironman World Champs. (Credit: Getty Images for Ironman)

After another successful season (70.3 gold in Marbella and silver in Barcelona), McNamee repeats his Kona bronze of 12 months earlier. However, any disappointment at not improving the colour of his medal is countered by breaking his Kona personal best by more than 10 minutes.

Indeed, his time of 8:01:09 would have won him gold in 2017 and is the third-fastest time ever posted at Kona. Ahead of him, Lange and Bart Aernouts become the first to go sub-eight hours in Hawaii.

October 2019: Medal hat-trick not to be in Kona

David McNamee competing in the 2019 Ironman World Champs before illness forced a DNF. (Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images for Ironman)

Continuing to race both half- and full-Iron events, McNamee takes 70.3 silver in Barcelona and Vichy earlier in the season.

However, his hopes of a third successive Kona podium in October are dashed when he has to retire mid-race through sickness.

August 2021: Resumption of hostilities with bronze at Ironman Germany

Patrik Nilsson of Sweden (C), Kristian Hogenhaug of Denmark (L) and David McNamee (R) celebrate on the podium after the 2021 Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt, Germany. (Credit: Joern Pollex/Getty Images for Ironman)

After a couple of COVID-affected seasons, McNamee returns to an Ironman podium with bronze in Germany. He’s not won an Ironman medal since, though.

May 2022: Top 10 at the 2021 World Champs

David McNamee runs home in ninth place at the postponed 2021 Ironman World Champs in St George, Utah, in May 2022. (Credit: Korupt Vision)

Places ninth at the postponed 2021 Ironman World Champs in St George, Utah, USA.

David McNamee in quotes

On relinquishing Olympic dreams by upgrading to long-course competition: “The suffering of Ironman was more appealing than the suffering of short-course racing. I’ve always been better when it’s drawn-out suffering. That’s what I excel at!”

On winning Ironman UK in only his second full-distance race: “I knew there was an outside chance to make the podium, but to come out on top is fantastic. I lost a nutrition bottle and one of my aero bars, so struggled at the back of the bike. However, I found my run legs!”

On being forced to retire before the run at Kona in 2019 when in search of a third successive world champs medal: “It’s been a tough week on the big island. It’s a thin line between top shape and being sick.”

What’s next for David McNamee?

David McNamee winning Ironman 70.3 Mallorca in 2017. (Credit: Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for Ironman)

For someone who admits his entire year revolves around world title dreams, McNamee will be desperate to rediscover some of the form that took him to the top table of Ironman in 2017 and 2018.

Having finished ninth at the 2021 champs, which were relocated to St George in Utah and rescheduled for the spring of 2022, McNamee will be hoping that his return to Hawaii will at least replicate his previous bronzes, if not taking him even higher.

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Top image credit: Simon Hofmann/Getty Images for Ironman