Another year, another formidable performance from Daniela Ryf at the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. The Swiss star made it four consecutive wins in Kona today and, in doing so, matched Chrissie Wellington's victory count in Hawaii and smashed the course record. And this included a nasty jellyfish sting on the swim that made her consider quitting after the swim leg.
After breaking the swim course record, Britain's Lucy Charles would finish second once again, and in doing so would produce the second-fastest time in women's Hawaii history.
CHARLES STRIKES FIRST
British interest in the women’s professional event was largely centred on rising superstar Lucy Charles (head here for the elite men's race report featuring David McNamee, Tim Don and Joe Skipper), with the Essex athlete targeting a victory over three-time champ Daniela Ryf after her second place Kona elite breakthough in 2017.
And Charles would prove utterly dominant in the swim leg of the women’s race, with the British athlete leading from the start and all by herself for much of the duration.
She’d exit in 48:13mins, under the course record of 48:43 from 1999 (and in the overall top ten fastest elite times of the day), and hit the bike with a 2min margin over the chasing field and around 10mins to Ryf, who was stung by a jellyfish in the swim under the arm. A message to the three-time Kona champion had been delivered by Charles.
By the 90km stage of the bike, Charles’ lead over Ryf was 8mins, with the Swiss athlete having risen through the field to second place. Brit Corinne Abraham was in fourth. Some 20km later and Ryf had chiselled Charles’ advantage down to 7mins, and this theme would continue for the duration of the bike course.
Ryf passed Charles just before T2 in 2017, and there was a sense of déjà vu for 2018 with Ryf overtaking the Essex athlete with 15km of the bike to go. In doing so, Ryf would break Karin Thürig’s 2011 course record of 4:44:19 with a time of 4:26:07. Her sights were now set on Kona title number four, the course record and matching Chrissie Wellington’s Hawaii win record.
On exiting T2, Charles looked the more relaxed and hit the run at a frenetic pace, ensuring that this wouldn’t be a procession for Ryf. The course record stood at 8:46:46 and Ryf seemed determined to break it, stretching her lead over Charles but with dangerous runners, including three-time champ Mirinda Carfrae and former ITU star Sarah Groff, there would be no easing off the throttle for the Swiss athlete.
Ryf would complete the marathon run in 2:57:05 to go under three hours in Kona for the first time. Her lead had increased to over 10mins by the time she broke the tape on Ali’i Drive in 8:26:16 to join Chrissie as a four-time winner of the race, behind only Natascha Badmann (six titles) and Paula Newby-Fraser (eight).
In the process, the Swiss athlete broke the Hawaii course record by 20mins and surpassed Wellington’s finish at Ironman South Africa by 17mins to become the world’s fastest woman in an official Ironman race (Chrissie’s iron-distance record is 8:18:13, set at Roth in 2011).
Charles came home in second after a time of 8:36:32, the second fastest time in women’s Hawaii history and Germany’s Anne Haug would finish third on debut in Hawaii. Another Kona debutant, Sarah True, was fourth and three-time Kona champ Carfrae rounded out the top five. Abraham was ninth and another Brit, Laura Siddall, was 17th.
On finishing, Ryf said the jellyfish sting made her consider quitting. “I thought I’m going to quit, and I thought, ‘No I can’t because I’m the champion and there’s going to be kids out there. They’re going to be so disappointed. You can’t give up. You never know. I can’t believe it. It’s just so unbelievable that this is possible.”