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Female triathletes: top 10 greatest ever?

We have discussed, debated and, frankly, argued furiously about who should make it onto our top 10 female triathletes of all time list... do you agree with our chosen 10?

9 Karen Smyers

For sheer toughness Karen rivals the best. It took her 17 years for her to DNF from a race when a broken collar bone gave her little choice. She has also battled thyroid cancer and was even hit by a truck.

"I got more attention from having cancer and getting hit by a truck than all my races. People love a comeback story," she says.

And her race record isn't bad either. During her career she won six consecutive US pro championships and was ITU World Champion in 1990 and 1995, Ironman World Champion in 1995 (she was the first woman to do the double of winning Ironman and ITU World Champs in one year) and ITU World Cup Champion in 1991. She has also finished second at Kona in 1994 and 1999.

Born in 1961 she started competing in triathlon when she moved to Boston, after graduating from Princeton University as she wanted to keep sport in her life after enjoying swimming and running at university. 

And it is a sport that has never left her and age and children have not stopped her either. In 2005, after having her second child, at the age of 44, she posted another top 10 position and and five years later in 2010, she was the 32nd pro female, finishing in 10:19hrs, not bad for the age of 49!

220 features editor Matt Baird says, "Having conquered both the ITU Worlds and Kona, Karen Smyers is a member of an exclusive club in female tri history (see also Erin Baker, Michellie Jones and Leanda Cave). Throw in her multiple U.S. Pro titles, an ITU World Cup series win – back when it was a major deal for the greatest athletes – and pure longevity, and it's easy to see why she's one of the most venerated athletes in tri history. She's also been one of the great ambassadors of the sport for decades, a hugely popular, determined and heroic inspiration to us all."

Karen Smyers greatest victories

Pan American Games gold medalist 1995

Ironman World Champion 1995

ITU World Champion 1995

ITU World Cup champion 1991

ITU World Champion 1990

Continue reading our guide to the 10 top female triathletes of all time  (3/10)


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She DNF'd in 2015 so the second sentence is incorrect.


What about Fernanda Keller (Miss Consistency) ?

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