Switzerland's Daniela Ryf has won her third Ironman World Championship title in a row and came close to her course record of 8:46:46 with a time of 8:50:47.
If Ryf was utterly dominant on the run, the day was made memorable for Brit fans by the 24-year-old Lucy Charles' stunning and star-making performance. Charles would lead from the swim start until the last metres of the bike leg, before holding on to second place on the run with a 3:08 marathon and a 8:59:38 finishing time.
Almost 10 years ago to the day, Chrissie Wellington broke out as a superstar of triathlon on her pro debut in Hawaii to take her first of four Ironman World Championship titles. That performance was recalled in Kona, Hawaii, today as Wellington’s fellow Brit, Lucy Charles, dominated the swim and bike legs in the women’s race, showing a fearlessness on her pro Hawaii debut that captivated the international audience on the livestreams and social media. Sadly for Charles, she had two-time champion Daniela Ryf to contend with on the bike and run.
The 24-year-old Charles was first out of the women’s swim in 48mins and was holding that lead at 50km on the bike along with Lauren Brandon of America. The defending champ Daniela Ryf was nearly six minutes back and not eating into Charles’ lead at all, while Brit Kona veterans Rachel Joyce and 2012 winner Leanda Cave were just over seven minutes back from Charles. But the battle would come after Hawi on the return to Ali’i Drive.
Charles, who won her age-group in 2016 in Hawaii after producing the fifth fastest overall swim of the day, was racing as a pro in Kona for the first time and sat aboard her new Specialized Shiv. At 70km the lead was under 5mins to Ryf, but Joyce and Cave were now over 9mins back.
Charles ran a 3:18hr marathon at Ironman Lanzarote in May, but would have to run faster to hit the Hawaii podium, with Ryf, Joyce and co. regularly hitting sub-3:06hr runs in Hawaii (and Ryf going 2:56hr in 2016).
At 100 miles (160km), Charles was on her own at the front with Brandon (1:25 behind) and Ryf (3:22) her closest challengers. Yet Ryf powered through the final 20km to pass Charles just before T2 to come into T2 after a 4:53:10 bike split.
At 15km on the run, Dyf's lead was over 4mins, by 20km it was 5mins and by the famous Energy Lab that lead had been extended to seven. Yet Charles was holding onto second place with a 4min cushion over America's Heather Jackson.
In another astonishing display of strength, Ryf would cross the line in 8:50:47 for another sub-9hr finish, yet 4mins shy of her Kona course record.
"It was the hardest I had to ever fight for the win. I'm so happy to turn it around today,” said Ryf at the finish. "I felt really bad at the start of the bike, and I didn't know what would come. I thought I'd just give my all in the last 40 k and didn't even think about the run."
Charles would be the next female pro home in 8:59:38 to record an incredible second place on her pro debut and, at just 24, lay down a major statement of intent for the years to come in Hawaii.
Pro Women - Finish
1. 8:50:47 Daniela Ryf
2. 8:59:38 Lucy Charles
3. 9:01:38 Sarah Crowley
4. 9:02:29 Heather Jackson
5. 9:04:40 Kaisa Sali