It's here! It's finally here!
After a three-year long hiatus, and still emerging from the throes of a global pandemic, the IRONMAN World Championships are about to return to their home in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. This year brings about many changes. After decades of complaints that combining the men’s and women’s fields led inevitably to drafting penalties as the top women were forced to contend with the back markers among the pro men and the leaders of the age-group race, that problem is now solved. This year the women have their own race on Thursday October 6 and the men will race on Saturday October 9. Splitting the professional fields has also allowed for there to be an equal number of entries for professional men and women for the first time.
We first must issue our best wishes and recovery to Kat Matthews, who is on the mend following a horrific crash with a car last week in Texas. Others not toeing the start line come Thursday morning include two-time PTO Open champion Ashleigh Gentle, Olympic gold medalist Flora Duffy, the retiring Nicola Spirig, and Emma Pallant-Browne.
Any order of Kona strength must begin with Daniela Ryf. Certainly her record here gives her reason to smile. She has won the World Championship in Kona four times [2015, 2016, 2017, 2018] and then reclaimed her throne with a dominating performance in St. George earlier this year. Her five world championships at this distance put her behind only Paula Newby-Fraser  and Natascha Badmann . Yet that also doesn't completely speak to her talent. No one else has come close to her combined IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 World title count of 10.
This is a woman that has faced race-day adversity and smashed it; in 2018 she was stung by a jellyfish on the swim, lost 9:18 minutes and got going in time for another victory. She's lost time due to flat tires towards the end of the bike, carefully navigated her way back to transition, and then picked apart her competitors on the run to win again. In casino terms, she's the house. And the house almost always wins.
Here's when the house lost. Haug took the 2019 crown with a stunning 8:40:10 performance including a by-far women's best 2:51:07 marathon. It shouldn't have come as a surprise -- the year before, she took bronze at both 70.3 and IRONMAN Worlds events. Another of the current crop of former ITU racers turned IM elites, Haug's maintained solid form over the last year, winning Challenge Roth in 2021 and took third at the St. George World Championship event despite, in her own words, “I bonked 5x on the bike.”
If you're placing bets, Haug on the podium is an almost guaranteed cash.
A champion swimmer and a very strong cyclist, Charles-Barclay has finished runner-up three straight times at Kona [2017, 2018, 2019], where her only fault is not running under 3 hours. That said, she has tasted World Championship glory with the 2021 70.3 title and the World Triathlon Long Distance crown this year. However, Charles-Barclay has also suffered through some significant injuries, with a long recovery due to a stress fracture of the hip early in 2022.
Following her comeback win at the World Triathlon Long Distance race, she said, “I can’t believe it. I wanted to come back and race and didn’t know exactly where I was. Training had been going well but you never know where you are until you race. I knew I needed to dig deep [at the World Triathlon Long Distance Worlds] with Emma Pallant-Brown behind me. I have won three races over the years and one of my early wins set me off with confidence in my pro career., so to come back was really really special. The sky’s the limit. I didn’t expect that today. But it’s given me so much confidence.”
One of the more consistent contenders, in 2017 she crashed but got up and finished 3rd in 9:01:38 with a 4:57:51 bike split and 3:05:36 run. That same year Crowley won the ITU Long Distance World Championships and Ironman Frankfurt. In 2018 she won Ironman Hamburg and took 6th at Ironman Worlds. In 2019, she had her most spectacular race here, taking another 3rd place in 8:48:13 with a 4:50:13 bike split and 2:59:20 run. Another top 5 seems inevitable.
Her big breakthrough was a win at Ironman Germany in 2019 followed by a win at Ironman 70.3 Boulder. She then reeled off a stretch that included a win at Ironman 70.3 Texas, 3rd at Ironman Tulsa, and a win at Ironman Chattanooga. Her bike has traditionally been her ace up her sleeve, with IM bike splits over the last few years of 4:39:49, 4:44;02, 4:53:03 and 4:41:30. Moench proved she is currently on her game with a win at 2022 Ironman North America Regional Championships in Des Moines and 4th at the Ironman World Championship in St. George. Moench may be the biggest beneficiary of the move to a women's only race -- pardon the pun, but the sky is the limit here.
Dark Horse Contenders
The former college hockey player now has recorded six Ironman wins (including Lake Placid, Arizona, Coeur d’Alene, Vitoria Gasteiz, Ironman Florida and Chattanooga) and 12 Ironman 70.3 victories. She also improved her Kona finishes (including 3rd in 2016, 4th in 2017 and 5th in 2015 and 2019.) Jackson also posted a second place at the 2013 Ironman 70.3 Worlds. Recent highlights include 4th at the 2021 edition of Ironman Tulsa, 2nd at 2022 Ironman Lake Placid in 9:10:23, and 11th at the Ironman World Championship in St. George, in 9:16:53. Her struggle, as always, will be giving up time on the swim; however, she may have more of a chance of staying in touch on the bike due to the lack of male interference with the race.
Norden will always be known for her stirring battle at the 2012 London Olympics where she fell a few inches behind Nicola Spirig in a photo finish for the gold. She switched to long course in 2017, and has acquired podium finishes. In 2018 she won Ironman 70.3 Sweden. In 2019 she added 2nd at Challenge Prague, 3rd places at Challenge Daytona and Sweden 70.3, a win at 2020 Gydnia 70.3. In 2021. In 2021 she also she added wins at Ironman Lake Placid and Challenge Salou. At Placid Norden combined a third-best 51:39 swim split, a women’s-fastest 4:55:26 bike and a women’s 4th-best 3:16:14 marathon to finish in 9:11:26 with a 7:25 margin over Heather Jackson of the U.S.
True will always be known for her excruciating 4th place finish at the 2012 Olympics in London. But once she got started on her long course career in 2018, she may have met her proper distance. In 2018 she placed 4th at the Ironman Worlds in Kona in 8:43;32 with a 4:49:19 bike split, a closing marathon of 2:57:58 (women’s third-best). In 2018 she took 2nd at Ironman Frankfurt in 9:05:19 with a women’s race-best split of 2:54:45. More recently she won 2022 Ironman Lake Placid in 9:00:22 -- and importantly, on a hot day, seemed to not suffer any ill effects.
A fine collegiate runner back in the day, her PB for the 1500 meter was 4:07:77. Once she took up triathlon, she is not at all shabby. In 2018 she won Indian Wells 70.3, In 2019 she took 4th in Ironman 70.3 Worlds, won Augusta 70.3, and the Ironman 70.3 South America Championship in Argentina. She maintained in 2022 with a 3rd at Ironman 70.3 Mallorca, a win at Eagleman 70.3 and a 2nd at Ironman Hamburg, although 18 minutes behind winner Laura Philipp. Most recently she took 3rd at the PTO Canadian Open and picked up a cool $50,000 for the effort.
In 2016 she won Ironman Mallorca. In 2017 she won Ironman New Zealand and Ironman 70,3 Vichy, and placed 10th at the Ironman World Championship. In 2021 she was 4th at Ironman Florida in 9:10:01. Then came 2022. She was 7th at the PTO US Open, 1st at Ironman Texas in 8:58:13 – second to Ryf. Can she deliver on the grandest stage of our sport?
After a broken collarbone in 2019, she was discouraged. But earlier that year she won Ironman New Zealand and Ironman Australia. Oz. In 2021 she was 3rd at Challenge Roth with a 2:58:43 marathon. 2nd Ironman Lanzarote and 5th at CLASH Daytona, By 2022 she was contemplating retirement. But later this year she took 7th at the Ironman World Championship at St. George and is inspired to keep on keeping on.
A few years ago, it seemed if Fenella did not have bad luck she had no luck at all. In 2019 she got stitches when she crashed her bike. Then broke her foot and collarbone at Challenge Mallorca. In 2020, she tore her calf four weeks prior to the PTO Championship. But she still managed 4th place and won $23,000. More good luck has followed. In 2022 she took 2nd at Challenge Roth and 8th at Ironman Worlds in St. George in 8:31:41. She seems poised for a potential breakthrough.
Full Start List
Gurutze Frades Larralde