German triathlete Laure Philipp is, quite simply, one of the world’s best when it comes to full Ironman and 70.3 racing, as demonstrated when she smashed both world records for Ironman-branded events in the spring of 2022.
Here, we take a look back at her career and explore the journey she’s taken to the top of the sport.
Who is Laura Philipp?
A late starter in triathlon – indeed, she didn’t learn to swim until she was 24 – Laura Philipp has made up for lost time in the years since. Her breakthrough came in 2016 when, in the final year of her twenties, the German took her first Ironman 70.3 triumph in Mallorca. It was a victory that opened the floodgates, with Philipp bagging 15 70.3 titles across Europe during the next few years, along with a bronze at the Ironman 70.3 Worlds in Tennessee.
In 2018, Philipp took part in her first Ironman. It was to be a full-distance debut to savour as she obliterated the Barcelona course record in a performance that made everyone sit up and take notice. Although still concentrating on 70.3 races, the following year saw a visit to Kona and a very creditable fourth place on her Hawaiian bow.
After an injury-hit, lockdown-affected period of time, Philipp dropped down the Ironman rankings, but anyone who’d seen her race knew this placing was an unreliable one. She proved this in 2021 when she stormed to victory at the Ironman European Championships in Finland, casually batting off her nearest rivals on the bike leg and leaving them in her tracks.
Then came the extraordinary spring of 2022. Having set a new world record at 70.3 in Dubai, Philipp repeated the trick in Hamburg where she posted the fastest women’s Ironman time ever recorded. The fact that her win also meant the successful defence of her European title went largely unremarked, such was the seismic reaction to the time she clocked.
A vegetarian since childhood, Philipp is also a firm believer in female triathletes utilising the physiological benefits of certain stages of the menstrual cycle. Rather than suppressing her periods through use of the contraceptive pill, Philipp has learned to adjust her training and diet around her cycle.
The record-demolishing times she’s been posting certainly suggest it’s benefitted her hugely. Whether her approach can land her Ironman world gold in Kona later this year (having missed the delayed 2021 championships through Covid) remains to be seen.
How old is Laura Philipp?
Laura Philipp was born on 23 April 1987, making her 35 years of age.
Laura Philipp’s career highlights
May 2016: A maiden 70.3 triumph
At the age of 29, Philipp records her first victory at half-Ironman distance when she wins in the sun at Ironman 70.3 Mallorca. Three months later, she follows this up with another first place, this time in the Ironman 70.3 race in Zell am See in Austria.
September 2017: A medal around her neck at the 70.3 worlds
Further solidifying her place at the top table of 70.3 racing, Philipp takes third in the world championships in Chattanooga, behind the indomitable Daniela Ryf and Britain’s Emma Pallant-Brown.
October 2018: An extraordinary full-distance debut in Barcelona
After a couple of seasons sweeping up 70.3 wins across Europe, Philipp attempts a full Ironman for the first time. And wasn’t she born to race it? She claims victory in a time that slices more than 11 minutes off the existing course record.
October 2019: Highly impressive first visit to Kona
Philipp’s Hawaiian debut finds her putting in a performance of great note, comfortably finishing fourth, losing out only to her compatriot Anne Haug, who takes her first world title, Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay and the Australian Sarah Crowley.
August 2021: Philipp is crowned the queen of Europe
At the Ironman 70.3 Europeans, Philipp announces her return to the upper echelons of the sport, after injury problems, in imperious fashion. On the run leg, she blows away her closest rivals – the American Jocelyn McCauley and Switzerland’s Imogen Simmonds – taking more than 20 minutes out of them to record a 2:52 marathon. Philipp is European champion.
March 2022: The ultimate 70.3 speedball
In Dubai, Philipp enters the record books when she sets the fastest Ironman 70.3 time ever recorded by a woman. Having seen off the challenge of the mighty Daniela Ryf, Philipp clocks a time of 3:53:03. A new era is emerging.
June 2022: Title retained, records destroyed
Three months later in Hamburg, Philipp repeats her record-smashing performance in Dubai when she sets the fastest-ever Ironman time by a woman. Her 8:18:20 is just an agonising seven seconds outside Chrissie Wellington’s iron-distance record, also set in Germany at Challenge Roth 11 years earlier.
Philipp’s closest competitor is the American Chelsea Sodaro, who comes home a full 18 minutes behind. The German’s European title was never in doubt.
Laura Philipp in quotes
On competing in her first full Ironman in Barcelona in 2018, ahead of smashing the course record: “I’m going to see how I can handle it. I’m really ready for pain. I want to do it and feel it and feel okay at the finish line.”
On that immense, record-busting Ironman performance in Hamburg that followed a similar result at Ironman 70.3 Dubai: “I was in the first half of my menstrual cycle in both races, which is physiologically the perfect time to perform at peak levels. I was also able to set a new Ironman world-best time in both races over different distances. A coincidence? Not in my opinion!”
On wanting the big one – Kona later this year – after missing the worlds in St George having been struck down with Covid: “If all the things come together, I think it’s possible to win. But I know how many other strong women have the same mindset as me going into this race. Anything is possible.”
What’s next for Laura Philipp?
With Covid having got in the way of her plan to at least make the podium at the Ironman Worlds for the first time in May 2022 in St George, the year’s second world champs, back in their spiritual home of Kona, is far and away Philipp’s chief focus right now.
And it would be a brave person to bet against the German adding another commanding victory – and another title – to her CV.