With its history stretching back almost as far as triathlon itself, Ironman Hawaii has become an institution among athletes. Now in its third decade, we count down 30 highlights from the race to end all races ahead of Saturday’s showdown…
14. Paula Newby-Fraser sets a new women’s course record
Newby-Fraser, below, hit the sweetest point of her career during her fourth Kona victory, obliterating the women’s nine-hour barrier to stop the clock at 8:55:28.
13. Dave Scott wins his sixth title
A strict vegetarian throughout his Hawaii winning streak, Scott was the first male to dominate the event. He won his first title in 1980 and his last in 1987. He claimed three consecutive titles from 1982 to 1984, and again in 1986. His personal best was 8:10:13.
12. Chrissie Wellington becomes the first UK athlete to win
Nicknamed ‘Muppet’, Wellington, above, pulled all the right strings last year to take the 2007 title, having only turned professional that year. What makes this all the more impressive is that she won the event on debut, having raced only one Ironman previous… which she also won.
11. Karen Smyers wins two world championships
In 1995, American Karen Smyers did the seemingly impossible by winning both the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii and the ITU World Championship (Olympic distance) in Cancun, Mexico, in the same year. A feat yet to be repeated by any female triathlete.
10. Greg Welch becomes the first non-American male winner
Nicknamed ‘Plucky’ for his resilience, Australian Greg Welch’s 1994 victory broke the USA’s 17-year domination of the event, as he became the first man to win the Grand Slam of triathlon, winning world championships in Ironman, Olympic-distance, duathlon and long-course events.
9. Natascha Badmann makes it six for Switzerland
The first European woman to win the event, Badmann, above, went on to record her sixth win in 2005. Starting in 1998 the Swiss won three consecutive titles from 2000 to 2002, and again in 2004. Known for smiling her way through races, Badmann is a true Ironman great.
8. John Maclean becomes the first wheelchair athlete to finish
Australian John Maclean was hit by a truck while bike training in 1988. Undeterred, he became the first wheelchair athlete to tame the ‘Big One’ in 1995. While wheeling himself backwards up one hill, best friend Johnno Young famously said to him: “The pain won’t last forever, but the memories will.”
7. Dick and Rick Hoyt
Father-and-son pair Dick and Rick Hoyt memorably finished the 1988 Ironman together. What made their feat so special was that Dick towed his handicapped son in a boat in the swim, propelled him on a specially made bike and pushed him in a wheelchair for the run. A collective outpouring of emotion greeted them both at the finish line.
6. Chrissie’s fourth and greatest
Ten days before the race a bike crash in training had seen Chrissie’s leg swell to double its size. Five days before the World Champs Welly had to be pulled out of the water because her pec muscle was so sore. Cut to T1 and Chrissie was nearly 10mins behind the leaders. T2 and she was still 22mins down on Julie Dibens and 10mins on Caroline Steffen. After three dominant Kona victories, here was Chrissie pushed to the limit. After passing the Brit trio of Dibens, Rachel Joyce and Leanda Cave by the halfway point in a phenomenal 1:22hr split, Steffen was next in Chrissie’s crosshair but Miranda Carfrae was pushing from behind. A 2:52hr marathon sealed the win, her fourth and greatest Hawaii victory. Waiting at the finishline was an IV, some chicken nuggets and chips, and the best possible end to her forthcoming autobiography.