Who will win the women’s race at the Ironman World Championship?

The long-awaited return to Kona, Hawaii, will see some familiar faces contest the title as the professional women have the stage to themselves. We take a look at the main contenders…

Daniela Ryf relaxes after finishing the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in 2021 in St George, Utah

The Ironman World Championship returns to Hawaii for the first time in three years, and for the first time ever the professional women are front and centre on race day.

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Thanks to Ironman’s decision to switch to two days of racing, the pro women line up on Thursday, 6 October and the professional men two days later.

If it feels different, it will be a familiar name that starts as the overwhelming favourite. After a couple of below par performances at last year’s Collins Cup and Ironman 70.3 Oceanside in April, and a change of coach, there were suggestions that Daniela Ryf might be a spent force.

But any doubters were put firmly in their place when the four-time Kona winner made it five Ironman World Championship titles in St George in May to regain the crown she ceded to Germany’s Anne Haug in 2019.

Ryf’s time of 8:34:58 was bolstered by a bike split 7mins faster than second-best Kat Matthews, and after an event-best Collins Cup time last month, it sets the Swiss as the women to beat in Hawaii once more.

Can anyone beat Ryf in Kona?

Anne Haug winning the 2019 Ironman World Champs. (Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Ironman)

Four names jump out as having the potential, and the obvious place to start is with Haug.

The German is reminiscent of three-time champion Mirinda Carfrae in her pomp on the marathon, as seen in 2019 as Haug ran through the field to overtake Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay in the Energy Lab.

Haug is the PTO ranked No 1. The 39-year-old finished third in St George in May and it will be only her third trip to race on the Big Island.

It’s likely she’ll have to improve on her 2:51:07 marathon from 2019 if she’s to win again, but she’ll take confidence from a rapid 8:22:42 in Challenge Roth in July – one of the fastest women’s times ever recorded.

Faster still in 2022 is Haug’s compatriot, Laura Philipp. Philipp was fourth in Hawaii in 2019, but has won all three of her Ironmans since, including in Hamburg in June in 8:18:20, when she was just 2secs outside Chrissie Wellington’s iron-distance record.

Like Ryf, Philipp excels on the bike – setting the fastest split in Hawaii in 2019 – and the 35-year-old’s swimming and running continue to improve.

Which female Brits are racing Kona?

Lucy Charles (before she was married) finishes second at the 2018 Ironman World Championships. (Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images for Ironman)

The two other standout triathletes in the field are both British. Charles-Barclay will come in fresh (ish) having missed the season through to August with a hip injury.

The three-time Hawaii runner-up made an emphatic return to racing in August to take the World Triathlon long-course title in Samorin.

Charles-Barclay was in the form of her life when she took the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Utah this time last year, and after a third place in the recent PTO US Open in Dallas, many assumed the middle distance may remain the focus for the rest of 2022.

Not so, and in her next attempt at the world title expect another solo mission out front for much of the day as she tries to stave off the chasers.

Our final contender of the big five was going to be Matthews, the army physio who was set to make her Hawaii debut having finished runner-up in St George. Sadly she came off worse in a cyclist vs car incident while training in Texas less than two weeks out from the race and was forced to withdraw.

Up until now, Matthews had had another stellar year as her star continued to rise in the sport, including winning the Phoenix Foundation Sub8 project in a scarcely fathomable 7:31:54.

Retaining the form into Kona was always going to be a big ask, but 70.3 wins in Lanzarote and Swansea suggested she was more than capable of a podium.

Who might podium in Kona?

Elsewhere, the best of the rest could turn out to also be a hotly contested battle to be the top US finisher.

It looks a four-way tussle between PTO ranked No. 8 Skye Moench, who was fourth in the St George World Champs; debutant Chelsea Sodaro, who posted one of the fastest Ironman debuts ever in Hamburg to finish second to Philipp; and veterans Sarah True (fourth in 2018) and Heather Jackson (four times in the top five).

There’s also the potential for more British pro women to race than ever before. As well as Charles-Barclay, Ruth Astle, Nikki Bartlett, Susie Cheetham, Fenella Langridge, Simone Mitchell, Chantal Sainter and Laura Siddall have all qualified, although Bartlett has said she won’t be travelling.

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Top image credit: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images for Ironman