Tim Don unleashed the fastest Ironman brand time in history and the second-fastest Ironman distance mark with an otherworldly performance at the Ironman South American Championship in Brazil.
Don, the 2006 ITU Olympic distance World Champion, combined a 44:16 swim, a 4:06:56 bike split and a 2:44:46 marathon to finish in 7:40:23 with a 25:20 margin of victory over Kyle Buckingham of South Africa and 26:35 over 3rd-place Igor Amorelli of Brazil.
Perhaps aided by cool temperatures in a light rain on the run, Don topped Lionel Sanders’ Ironman-brand record of 7:44:29, set last year at Ironman Arizona, by 4:06. The only man to post a faster Ironman-distance time remains Jan Frodeno, who went 7:35:39 at Challenge Roth last year. Frodeno’s mark is 4:44 faster than Don’s Brazilian performance.
Ironman Brazil has recently earned a reputation as a fast Ironman venue as Brent McMahon of Canada went 7:46:10 at Florianópolis last year – which was the 3rd-fastest Ironman-brand performance until Don’s record-smashing effort today.
While they were a bit overshadowed by Don’s heroics, the women had a stellar day as well. Susie Cheetham of Great Britain led the way with an 8:52:00 finish, followed by Sonja Tajsich of Germany in 8:57:36 and long-time race leader Haley Chura of the U.S., who took the final spot on the podium in 8:58:45.
In a close race for 4th place, Gurutze Frades of Spain edged Linsey Corbin of the U.S. by 13 seconds.
Tim Don did not lead wire-to-wire but he came close. Luiz Francisco led the swim in 44:12, 2 seconds ahead of Harry Wiltshire and 4 seconds ahead of Don. Potential contenders Reinaldo Colucci (44:22), Igor Amorelli (44:23), Andreas Raelert (44:30), Matt Chrabot (46:35), Brent McMahon (47:04) and Eneko Llanos (47:40) would have been well placed if not for Tim Don’s superhuman day to come.
Don signaled to the field that he would be a formidable force as he took a 4:29 lead by 40 km into the bike leg. By 90km, Don increased that lead to 10 minutes and relentlessly added to it throughout the rest of the bike leg.
By the end of the 180km ride, Don’s 4:06:56 split might have been mistaken for an Andrew Starykowicz performance if not for Don's slender runner’s frame. At T2, Don had a 20:34 and 20:35 lead on Colucci and Amorelli, 20:41 on Raelert, 24:48 on Kyle Buckingham and 25:13 on McMahon.
If any of the chasers held out hope that Don would blow up after his heroic ride, those hopes were dashed when Don averaged 5:59 per mile for the first 13km and increased his lead to 23:31 on Colucci, 24:13 on Amorelli and 25:28 on Raelert. After that, Raelert quickly faded out of the top 10.
By the finish, Don posted a race-best 2:44:46 marathon and came within 24 seconds of cracking the 7:40 mark.
No surprise. That was the reaction when Haley Chura of the U.S. led the women’s swim. Chura emerged from the water in 48:09, which gave her a 1:02 lead on Celine Schaerer of Switzerland, 2:06 on Magali Tisseyre of Canada, and various leads on main contenders including 2:33 on Susie Cheetham of Great Britain, 6:32 on Linsey Corbin of the U.S., 7:22 on Mareen Hufe of Germany and 7:33 on Sonja Tajsich of Germany.
Chura also has a strong bike which defended that lead all the way to T2. Chura’s 7th-best 4:55:18 bike split, 4:02 slower than Hufe’s women's-best 4:51:16 and 2:16 slower than Cheetham’s 4:53:02, gave the U.S. competitor a 3 seconds lead on Cheetham, 3:07 on Hufe, 5:15 on Corbin, 5:16 on Pamela Tastets of Chile, 5:25 on Gurutze Frades, 5:30 on Annah Watkinson of South Africa and 5:43 on Tajsich.
Anyone expecting Chura to surrender was mistaken as Chura increased her lead to 40 seconds on Cheetham at 13km. But by 23km, Cheetham made the pass and opened a 1 minute lead on Chura, 5:53 on Frades, 7:17 on Tajsich and 8:05 on Hufe.
By 33km, Cheetham was long gone, on her way to a tied-for-women’s-best 3:02:41 run split and the victory. Meanwhile, Tajsich was stalking Chura and had reduced the U.S. competitor’s margin to 1 minute. Tajsich (3:02:41 run) passed Chura in the final miles for 2nd place, 5:36 behind Cheetham and 1:08 ahead of Chura (3:09:30 run).
Ironman South American Championship
May 28, 2017
S 2.4 mi. / B 112 mi. / R 26.2 mi.
1. Tim Don (GBR) 7:40:23
2. Kyle Buckingham (RSA) 8:05:43
3. Igor Amorelli (BRA) 8:06:58
4. Reinaldo Colucci (BRA) 8:10:04
5. Thiago Vinhal (BRA) 8:11:46
6. Luis Ohde (BRA) 8:12:45
7. Patrick Evoe (USA) 8:16:26
8. Mario De Elias (ARG) 8:19:17
9. Fellipe Santos (BRA) 8:23:40
10. Philipp Koutny (CHL) 8:27:27
1. Susie Cheetham (GBR) 8:52:00
2. Sonja Tajsich (GER) 8:57:36
3. Haley Chura (USA) 8:58:45
4. Gurutze Frades (ESP) 9:01:00
5. Linsey Corbin (USA) 9:01:13
6. Mareen Hufe (GER) 9:01:44
7. Annah Watkinson (RSA) 9:04:59
8. Pamela Tastets (CHL) 9:07:56
9. Elisabeth Gruber (AUT) 9:08:16
10. Magali Tisseyre (CAN) 9:09:49