The further Chrissie Wellington advances into her career, the dimmer the prospects that any woman on this planet can challenge her at Kona. An arm smashing bike crash on January 2 only seems to have rejuvenated Chrissie and reinforced her dominance after she emerged from her casts. This year she faces formidable talents in Julie Dibens and Mirinda Carfrae, but her record times at Challenge Roth seem to be unanswerable. But no matter how certain the prospects, Madame Pele reserves the right to shock us all.
Chrissie Wellington, 33, GBR – 1-5
She is human, after all. Broken bones in her fingers, wrist, hand and arms thanks to a January 2 bike crash put the Duchess of Wellington on the sidelines for several months. Which turned out to be a good thing – rest and recuperation after a loaded race schedule in 2009. Any questions that she was entering a slump were terminated with extreme prejudice in July when she smashed her own Iron-distance world best at Roth by 12 minutes with a jaw-dropping 8:19:03 time, which included a stunning world-best 4:36 bike split and a dazzling world-best 2:48 run (take that, Mirinda!). The enforced rest made CW even more frightening. While the opportunity to watch gender-shredding history being made should be enough for the fans, there are some wishful thinkers who want more. One conspiracy theorist laid it out this way: Carfrae and Dibens enjoyed a summer in Boulder pushing each other to new levels. Chrissie has never been pushed on the bike, but Julie Dibens will start out front on the swim and Wellington will redline and panic trying to catch here. Carfrae will keep the bike loss under 10 minutes, then take wellington with a 2:51 run. Keep dreaming. Wellington is smart as a whip, cool as a cucumber, and performs well in the heat. No one on earth can beat her at the Ironman distance but bad luck - a crash or illness. Plus Wellington only has two other races plus Roth – 70.3 wins at Timberman and Kansas. Well rested, she is a lock for four.
Mirinda Carfrae, 29, AUS – 4-1
Carfrae’s 2009 Ironman Hawaii second place debut was almost perfect, since it included a record IMH marathon of 2:56:51, topping Wellington’s own mark. Carfrae (pictured adjacent, left), under the coaching of 2001 ITU World Champion Siri Lindley, proceeded to have an almost perfect 2010 season, winning 70.3 titles at Oceanside, the Rev3 Half, Vineman, Calgary and Muskoka, and took a second place at Olympic distance St. Anthony’s, showing she hasn’t lost all her 2004 Athens Olympics speed. The only blot was a DNF defending her 2009 St. Croix 70.3 title. In her winning races, Carfrae’s foot speed remained dominant, with a 1:16:32 half marathon at Vineman 70.3, a 1:18:15 at Muskoka, and a 1:20:15 at Calgary, which was just 3 seconds slower than men’s winner Kieran Doe. But the 22 minutes she lost to Wellington’s 4:52 bike at Kona last year seems to remain the sticking point for 2010. Her 70.3 bike splits of 2:39:55 at Muskoka, 2:30:57 at Calgary, and 2:27:42 at Vineman 70.3 do not indicate she can match Wellington’s all-world 4:36 bike split at Roth, nor Chrissie’s 2:21:16 bike at Kansas. Plus Wellington’s 1:15:12 run at Kansas topped everything Carfrae put up all year at the distance.
Julie Dibens, 35, GBR – 5-1
Now here is a woman who just might lead Wellington to T2 at Kona. Dibens’ (pictured above, right) swims are among the best in the sport, which should top Wellington’s ever-improving swim by at least 2 minutes. Dibens’ 2:07 bike split winning Clearwater and her dominance of the Ironman-long bike at Abu Dhabi despite a flat augur well for the English champion. Up to T2. This will be no mean feat, since Wellington has so far never had to come from behind at Kona starting the run. But Dibens’ run at Clearwater was only sixth-best and her 1:32:59 run at Boise and 1:36:44 run at Boulder (albeit waiting at the end to allow more women to earn prize money) But even a 15-minute lead at T2 won’t be enough to hold off Wellington at Kona.
Tereza Macel, 36, CZE – 11-2
Fourth place at Kona in 2009 was good, as were her 2009 Ironman wins at Lake Placid and Canada and 2010 Iron-distance wins at Brazil and Embrunman. She often emerges from the swim first, and has sub-5 hour bike speed on a good day. But her 3:21 marathon at Kona means this 36-year-old Czech-born Canadian is not in the game for as Kona win.
Rebekah Keat, 32, AUS – 6-1
Keat’s 8:39 at Roth in 2009 is still the third-best Iron-distance clocking of all time. But that year she was only 8 minutes behind Wellington – although her 2:56 marathon topped Chrissie’s run. This year Keat was 30 minutes behind Wellington’s 8:19 at Roth. The tough Aussie posted a very good 8:54 at Copenhagen and won Louisville in the blazing heat at week or two later. One of four women who have a long-shot prayer of toppling Wellington’s reign at Kona. If she can avoid another DQ on the bike that erased her 5th place finish last year.
Catriona Morrison, 33, SCO – 7-1
Won St. Croix 70.3, but her come from behind win at Lanzarote after losing 40 minutes due to a mechanical problem on the rugged hilly windy bike at Lanzarote is a testimony to her guts. Morrison's (pictured adjacent) dominant win at the ITU long course duathlon worlds is a testament to her speed and endurance on the biker and run. The only problem cracking a podium finish? Her mediocre swim. Will easily top her 18th place finish last year fighting illness.
Samantha McGlone, 31, CAN – 8-1
This talented Canadian is almost back to her 2007 runner-up finish by 5 minutes to Wellington at Kona. But most of a year off in 2008 due to physical woes has left her playing catch-up to the Wellington Express and her own capabilities. A 5th at Kona and a win at Ironman Arizona late last year were promising. But 70.3 wins at Syracuse and Texas, thirds at California and Mooseman and a 4th at Lake Stevens do not indicate a better finish at Kona this year.
Virginia Berasategui, 35, ESP – 9-1
The Spaniard’s third place at Kona last year, including a second-best 5:01 bike, and her win at 2009 Wildflower were signs of her best year. This year she took 3rd – place finishes at Wildflower and Abu Dhabi and her win at the European long distance championship indicate she has recovered most -- but not all -- of her 2009 form.
Caroline Steffen, 32, SUI – 19-2
New Swiss star is a real contender at Kona this year after a win at the ultra-tough Iron-distance Gerardmer in France and an ITU long course World Championship at Immenstadt and strong seconds at Frankfurt and Ironman South Africa. Took 4th at Ironman 70.3 Worlds last fall and 4th at Abu Dhabi, then went on a 70.3 tear with wins at Geelong, Singapore.
Joanna Lawn, 37, NZL – 10-1
One of the most consistent Kona performers with 4th place finishes in 2005 and 2007, a 5th in 2004, 7th in 2006, 8ith last year and 10th in 2002. Has won a record 7 Ironman New Zealand titles, a win at Roth in 2006 and broke the 9-hour barrier there in 2007. This year she won Ironman New Zealand and took 7th at Frankfurt.
Kate Major, 33, AUS – 21-2
Major soldiered through an off form 22nd place at Kona last year, but her more accustomed finish is on the podium with thirds at 2004, 2005 and 2007. She can win, as seen in her Ironman wins at Lake Placid in 2004 and Ironman Arizona in 2005. This past year she took 3rd at Ironman Arizona. This year in the 70.3 arena, she won Rhode Island, took 2nd at Mooseman and Racine, and took 5th place finishes at California and Boise.
Sandra Wallenhorst, 38, GER – 11-1
This late blooming German (adjacent, pictured with Wellington) made a big splash in 2008 with an 8:47:25 win at Ironman Austria and a third place at Ironman Hawaii behind Wellington and Yvonne Van Vlerken. Last year she won Frankfurt but fell to 8th at Kona. This year she is back to form with another win at Frankfurt and at Ironman 70.3 South Africa.
Yvonne Van Vlerken, 32, NLD -- 12-1
This pint-sized Dutch dynamo burst on to the triathlon scene in 2007 with an 8:51:55 win at Roth and a win at Almere. In 2008, she set a world best at the Iron-distance with an 8:45:58 win at Roth, and a 2nd at Ironman Hawaii. In 2009, she took 2nd at Frankfurt, won Ironman Cozumel and won 70.3s at Wiesbaden and Geelong. This year she was 3rd at Frankfurt and 2nd at the IT long course worlds in Germany.
Linsey Corbin, 29, USA – 13-1
Took 5th and top American at Ironman Hawaii in 2009 and took 2nd at Ironman Arizona. This year had a breakthrough win at Ironman Coeur d’Alene. In the 70.3s, was 2nd at Boise, 3rd at Calgary and Kansas ( the good? 1:19:56 run. The bad? 18 minutes behind Wellington.) 6th at Lake Stevens and 7th at Wildflower long course.
Leanda Cave, 32, GBR – 14-1
This 2002 ITU World Champion seems to have the stuff to podium at Kona thanks to multiple wins on the 70.3 circuit. But something always seems to get to her at Kona - perhaps the heat. But last year’s 23rd at Kona and 5th at Ironman Arizona underlines doubts for Cave at the Ironman distance after a hopeful 2nd place at 2008 Ironman Arizona. This year a close second to Julie Dibens with the Ironman-length bike at Abu Dhabi raises hopes for Cave at Kona.
Erika Csomor, 38, HUN – 15-1
This swift-footed Hungarian won Powerman Zofingen 6 times, the ITU duathlon world championship three times. In 2008 she took 4th at Ironman Hawaii, 2nd at Roth in a sub-9 hours, and won Ironman Arizona. In 2009 Csomor took 3rd at Wildflower, 2nd at Embrunman but has not been in top form this year.
Dede Griesbauer, 40, USA – 16-1
Great biker. Top finishes at Kona were 7th in 2007, 9th in 2009, and 10th in 2008. Won Ironman Brazil in 2009 and took 2nd there in 2010 and 2007. Won Ironman UK in 2006. In the 70.3 realm, took 2nd at California in 2007, 3rd at St. Croix in 2007, 2nd at Eagleman in 2008 and 3rd at Vineman in 2009.
Sofie Goos, 30, BEL – 17-1
“La Goos” of Antwerp, Belgium won 2009 Ironman Florida and 2010 Antwerp 70.3. According to several Slowtwitch forum contributors, possibly the best-looking woman in the sport.
Sonja Tajsich, 35, (GER) – 35-2
This 35-year-old German woman caught the attention of the sport in 2009 when she finished 2nd to Lucie Zelenkova at Ironman South Africa (and ahead of Rachel Joyce) and second to Bella Bayliss at Ironman Austria. In 2010, she won Ironman South Africa in 9:16:55 - just off Zelenkova's 2009 race record but 5 minutes 5 seconds ahead of fast-rising Caroline Steffen. Tajsich underlined her arrival at the sport's elite level by winning Ironman Regensburg in a speedy 9:06:46 topped off by a respectable 3:09:06 marathon.
Rachel Joyce, 32, (GBR) -- 18-1
Joyce was fast rising in 2009 with a 2nd at Ironman Lanzarote and an even more impressive 6th at Ironman Hawaii. Joyce had high hopes starting 2010, but an accident arriving in T1 at Abu Dhabi left her with a bad gash in her foot. The toll was three cut tendons which required an operation and left her out of action until July, when she showed she was back on target with a 2nd place finish at Antwerp 70.3 against a tough field. The talent is there but the question remains: Can she return to her 2009 Ironman form at Kona in 2010?
Gina Crawford, 30, (NZL) – 37-2
This New Zealand star showed she was back on track with her 5th Ironman victory at Ironman Wisconsin last month. But her 9:27 time does not augur a breakthrough at Kona.
Kelley Williamson, 33, (USA) – 19-1
After a mini-breakthrough in 2009 in which she placed 2nd at Buffalo Springs 70.3 and Augusta 70.3, Kelly Williamson came on stronger in 2010. Her 3rd place at the Texas Longhorn 70.3 was notable for her sizzling fast race-best 1:18:18 run. After than she took 2nd to Mirinda Carfrae at the half-Ironman distance Rev3 Quassy, was 3rd at Ironman Coeur d'Alene, and showed she knew how to close the deal at the 70.3 distance with wins at Steelhead and Branson.
Amy Marsh, 33, USA – 20-1
Made her breakthrough with 2009 wins at Ironman Wisconsin and Buffalo Springs 70.3. This year underlined her arrival in the elite ranks at the Iron distance with wins at Ironman Lake Placid and Rev 3. Brett Sutton coaching with Team TBB has benefited this Austin, Texas star.
Bree Wee, 31, USA – 21-1
Hawaiian talent has a good resume – 4th at 2008 Ironman Florida, 5th at 2009 Philippines 70.3, 5th at 200i9 Ironman Cozumel, 8th at 2010 Ironman South Africa, 2nd at Ironman 70.3 Honu.
Meredith Kessler, 32, (USA) -- 24-1
This Syracuse University field hockey and track NCAA athlete had a stellar age group record in 20 Ironman races before turning pro this year. Kessler showed she belonged in the pro ranks with a 4th at Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, placed 2nd at Ironman Saint George, and then won venerable Ironman Canada.
Karen Smyers, 49, USA – 49-1
Can’t count out the 1990 and 1995 ITU World Champion and 1995 Ironman Hawaii winner. But time tide and age bow for no man or woman.
This lighthearted attempt to evoke interest in the Ironman Hawaii women's elite contest does not purport or pretend to offer a mathematically sound combination of odds. As the highly intelligent and experienced horse bettor Lew Kidder noted, if the author makes Chrissie Wellington 1-5, then everybody else should be 20-1 or worse. Second, these odds offered do not pretend to be infallible. Athletes may prove the author wrong on the field of battle - Remember that he (and hordes of other pre-race odds lists and prognosticators) left out Chrissie Wellington altogether in 2007.