The woman who shocked the triathlon world with her victory as a rookie at Kona in 2007 and subsequently bestrode the world of Ironman racing like a colossus announced her retirement at age 35 from professional Ironman racing today.
Four-time Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington, who shattered all women’s Ironman-distance records in a late-blooming, meteoric five year career and who remained undefeated in 13 races at the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run distance, wrote in her blog that she would cease her stellar career as a long distance triathlete.
After taking a one-year sabbatical from the sport to promote her book “A Life Without Limits” and do charity work and public speaking, Wellington explained how she came to her decision in a statement:
“Over the past 12 months I have had time to reflect and think, about my past and, of course, also of my future.
“Being a professional ironman athlete has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.
“I have achieved more than I could have ever imagined, and been so fortunate to travel to some beautiful places, compete against the best in the world, and forge many lasting friendships.
“Those life-changing experiences and memories will stay with me forever.”
A late starter, Wellington won Ironman Hawaii in 2007 just 10 months after turning professional and one year after winning the 2006 ITU age group world championship.
Wellington went on to win the Ironman world’s crown jewel in 2008 and 2009 before illness forced her withdrawal immediately before the 2010 edition of Ironman Hawaii. She reclaimed her Kona title in 2011 despite suffering painful injuries in a bike crash just weeks earlier.
Wellington continued her statement: “As an athlete I sought ‘the perfect race’. That race within myself where I dug to the depths mentally and physically, and that hard-fought race with my competitors. The World Ironman Championships in 2011 was the icing on the cake for me as an athlete. It was my ‘perfect race’ and it ‘completed’ me. My passion for the sport hasn’t waned, but my passion for new experiences and new challenges is what is now burning the most brightly.
“Hence, I have got to the point where I know that it is right for me to retire from professional ironman distance racing.
“Needless to say this decision has not come easy, but deep in my heart I know it is the right thing for me to do. My future will, of course, involve sport and triathlon – but it will no longer be the axis around which my entire life revolves.”
In 2009, Wellington broke Paul Newby-Fraser’s Ironman World Championship women’s race record which had stood for 17 years with a time of 8:54:02. She broke the Ironman-distance world record at Challenge Roth three straight years, culminating with a world-best time of 8:18:13 in July of 2011. Wellington also set the official World Triathlon Corporation Ironman race record with a time of 8:33:56 at Ironman South Africa in 2011.
Wellington explained that her year off since her 2011 triumph allowed her to gain perspective on her life and her career in sport.
“In the past year, since I won the World Ironman Championships, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being able to dedicate myself to other aspects of my life, including charity work, public speaking, policy development, and of course publishing and promoting my autobiography, ‘A Life Without Limits’."
At the beginning of her sabbatical, Wellington said, “I’ve given absolutely everything to Ironman over the past five years. “I have always seen triathlon as a part of my life, rather than the be all and end all, and am looking forward to a little more variety and balance by pursuing other interests, as well as spending more time with my family and friends.”
Before becoming a professional triathlete, Wellington worked for the British government as an adviser on international development and on development projects in Nepal. She remains involved in charities supporting international development and efforts encouraging women and girls to take up sport. She is an ambassador for the Blazeman Foundation and, at the finish line of all her races, performed the Blazeman roll in memory of the late Jon Blais, an age group triathlete who suffered from ALS.