Jan Frodeno became the first Olympic champion to win the Ironman World Championship with a dominating triumph in Hawaii.
The German, who had already won the Ironman European title in Frankfurt in July and the World 70.3 crown in August, confirmed his status as the best long-distance triathlete in the world by posting a time of 8:14:40, 3:03mins ahead of Andreas Raelert, with Tim O’Donnell in third.
“Thank you all for your amazing support,” Frodeno, 34, who finished third on debut last year, said at the finish. “I’m sorry to take the title from an American again, but I’m glad TO [O’Donnell] didn’t have any garlic last night as he was breathing down my neck all day. I’m over the moon, what a race.
“This is the Wimbledon of our sport, I am so happy. It was brutal, hotter than Frankfurt and no shade at all. Everyone laughs at me for stopping [at the aid stations to cool off] but I’m the world champion and don’t really care.”
After two barren years, it was a welcome return to form for Raelert, who had previously twice finished runner-up and twice placed third in Kona. But away from the 39-year-old’s resurgence, the only major shock of the race was reigning champion Kienle's inability to splinter the field on the bike leg. In fact the German was only third to dismount – behind Frodeno and O’Donnell – with less than 6mins separating the top 14, after favourable conditions on the Queen K highway.
The day began with Andy Potts relinquishing his annual first-out-of-the-water honour to Kona debutant Dylan McNeice although the Kiwi’s moment in the spotlight would be short-lived. Frodeno was just metres behind as they headed on to the pier for the first time, with the next group 1:40mins back featuring Brits Tim Don, David McNamee and Fraser Cartmell. Raelert was also in attendance, but the most noticeable and surprising presence was that of Kienle, following the final pair of feet in the group into Kailua Bay for the most impressive swim of this career.
Out on to the bike, Frodeno and Kienle set the early pace but there was no sign of the lead pack breaking up in conditions conducive to fast times. Through 60 miles it was still 15-strong, although McNamee had slipped three minutes back, with Joe Skipper maintaining his swim deficit to stay within five minutes.O’Donnell darted off the front to build a short-lived minute lead at 75 miles and both Don and McNamee suffered 5min penalties that would prove costly.
Frodeno reasserted his authority for a 30sec cushion into T2 and a stellar roll call followed back on to the pier: former winners Kienle and Frederick Van Lierde; second-placed Kona finishers Eneko Llanos and Raelert – with the latter also suffering a flat; Canadian debutant Brent McMahon, who had only raced two Ironmans but both under 8hrs; and Belgian Marino Vanhoenacker who has twice dipped under eight hours this year. Joe Skipper was first Brit off the bike in 15th just 8:30mins back and looking in decent shape.
Within five miles Frodeno had a 2min cushion and attrition was already setting in amongst the challengers. Kienle was one to suffer and would eventually finish eighth and Raelert was making the biggest move, running into a podium spot with Potts also moving smoothly.
Frodeno looked as if he might falter at the halfway mark with O’Donnell closing to within 60secs, but it was a temporary scare and instead it was Raelert who would eventually overtake the American with two miles remaining for the runner-up spot.
The trio of leading Brits all narrowly missed the pay cheques of the top 10. Strong finishing McNamee - with the day's fastest run split 2:49:52 - finished 11th, Skipper 13th and Don 15th. All will be disappointed to return empty-handed but it still represented solid debuts and the best showing by British male athletes in Hawaii for several years.