Having made the transition from the pool to the multisport world, it’s fair to say that Lucy Charles-Barclay made a deep and near-immediate impression on the long-course scene.
Arguably the strongest swimmer in all women’s triathlon, she continues to make her presence felt on the race course. But the big one still awaits…
Who is Lucy Charles-Barclay?
It was a sense of disappointment and disillusionment with another sport that caused Lucy Charles-Barclay – then just Lucy Charles – to take up triathlon. Since that moment, her ascendancy to the highest of the high has been quite spectacular.
Being a national swimming champion in her teenage years, both in the pool and open water, led naturally to Olympic dreams, specifically to compete in the London Games of 2012.
However, there was only one slot for a female open-water swimmer on the squad, and Kerri-Anne Payne – silver medallist four years earlier in Beijing and the 2011 world champion – got the nod from the selectors. Charles-Barclay turned towards triathlon instead, despite the fact that she’d never cycled or run competitively.
She made her triathlon debut in 2014 and, just the following year, was crowned Ironman 70.3 world champion in the 18-24 age group.
Still an amateur at that point, she turned professional in 2016, managing third place at Ironman Lanzarote in her first pro race; she returned to the Canaries 12 months later to claim the win.
Also in 2017, she finished second at Kona in the Ironman worlds at her first attempt, the first of four consecutive (there was no race in Kona in 2020 or 2021) runners-up spots in Hawaii.
With an ever-lengthening list of triumphs and medals – including European and world titles, three victories in the Challenge Championship, two wins at the Ironman African Championship, and a triumph at Challenge Roth – that elusive Ironman World title remains the overriding goal, the burning ambition.
How old is Lucy Charles-Barclay?
Lucy Charles-Barclay was born on 15 September 1993, making her 29 years old.
Lucy Charles-Barclay’s career highlights
August 2015: Wins age-group at Ironman 70.3 worlds
Barely a year after competing in her first Ironman, Charles-Barclay wins the women’s 18-24 age group world title at half-distance.
October 2015: Repeats the trick at the full distance
Still an amateur, Charles-Barclay becomes a double world champion when she takes the Ironman 18-24 title at Kona.
May 2016: Competes in her first pro race
Having initially been denied a pro licence, Charles-Barclay finishes third overall in her debut race as a professional, coming third at Ironman Lanzarote. However, a stress fracture of the arm rules her out for the rest of the season.
May 2017: Two wheels good for Lanzarote success
Having given up her day job as a personal trainer the previous month, Charles-Barclay wins her first race as a full-timer back in Lanzarote. In the process, she sets a new course record for the bike leg – quite remarkable as she had never ridden competitively fewer than two years earlier.
October 2017: Podium place for first time in Kona as a pro
Charles-Barclay’s star continues to ascend at an astonishing rate as she takes second place at the Ironman worlds behind the long-course legend that is Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf. It will be the first of three consecutive runners-up spots at Kona.
October 2018: History repeats with another second place at Ironman worlds
Daniela Ryf again overpowers Charles-Barclay’s push for the title, but the Englishwoman breaks the course swim record with 48:13. Indeed, her overall time of 8:36:34 is the second-fastest time ever at Kona, albeit a full 10 minutes behind Ryf’s new record.
Having also come second at the Ironman 70.3 Worlds, Charles-Barclay loses the bridesmaid tag when she marries Reece Barclay in December.
July 2019: Charles-Barclay tames the Bavarian beast of Challenge Roth
Having narrowly missed out on victory in 2018 by just nine seconds, the top step of the podium beckons when Charles-Barclay dominates the race to take her first Challenge Roth title. She then goes on to take her third consecutive runner-up spot at the Ironman Worlds in October.
June 2021: Phenomenal WTCS debut
Charles-Barclay debuts at the Olympic-distance World Triathlon Championship Series race in Leeds, and finishes in a fantastic fifth place, one spot behind eventual Olympic champion, Flora Duffy.
September 2021: Top of the world at Ironman 70.3
After the sport’s break during the pandemic, Charles-Barclay went into the worlds as European champion, having won in Denmark three months previously.
If anything, her performance in the worlds was even more definitive, a gun-to-tape triumph with an eight-minute margin of victory. Even more satisfying, she was able to exact revenge over her full-distance nemesis Daniela Ryf.
- Ironman 70.3 World Championship: Lucy Charles-Barclay delivers stunning victory
- Collins Cup: British women star as Europe triumph in new triathlon team competition
March 2022: Sidelined with injury
Takes to social media to announce that she has a stress fracture in her hip and will not be competing at the 2021 Ironman Worlds in St George, nor the Sub7 project.
August 2022: Returns with a bang
September 2022: Podiums in Dallas
In the first-ever PTO US Open, she loses a bottle on the bike, struggles to rack her bike in T2 and then stops to replenish that lost fluid… but still holds on for a valiant third behind Taylor Knibb and Ashleigh Gentle.
October 2022: A second that feels like a win
Back on the biggest stage of them all, at the 2022 Ironman World Champs, Charles-Barclay shines to finish second – her fourth consecutive runner-up spot on the Big Island.
Three weeks later and she collects a fourth at the 70.3 Worlds in St George, Utah.
Lucy Charles-Barclay in quotes
On giving up competitive swimming for triathlon: “I didn’t really know what it would entail in terms of the training and equipment, but I knew I needed a goal that scared me enough to start training again.”
On being regarded as too skinny for Ironman: “The thing about Ironman is that people who do well are really different sizes. There’s not one shape to win the race.”
On coming second in her first crack at Kona: “It’s the most emotional I’ve ever been finishing a race. I could not believe that I’d come second in my debut race off the back of the lack of training I’d had.”
On winning the Ironman 70.3 world title in 2021 after such a dominant performance: “That’s how I wanted the day to go. A perfect day from the start. It couldn’t have gone any better.”
On potentially competing at the Paris 2024 Olympics: “I come from a swim background where it was all about chasing that Olympic dream, and I still haven’t given up on that – I just hope I can do it in triathlon.”
On finishing second for the fourth time in Kona in 2022: “This second place means the most out of all of them. It’s testament to my resilience this year, never giving up on myself and knowing I could come back. People will say it’s another second but to me it’s a massive win after coming back from the injury that I had.”
What’s next for Lucy Charles-Barclay?
The hunt for that elusive Kona win continues, as well as reclaiming that 70.3 title. Whatever she achieves in 2023, it’s bound to be spectacular.
- Lucy Charles-Barclay: “It’s getting harder and harder to become world champion”
- Lucy Charles-Barclay shares her Ironman training secrets
- 70.3 swim advice and sessions from Lucy Charles-Barclay
Top image credit: Alexander Koerner/Getty Images for Ironman