Brit Kat Matthews takes second at Ironman World Championship

Swiss star Daniela Ryf regained her title in St George having dominated the race with a trademark fastest bike split. Britain's Kat Matthews finishes runner-up on debut ahead of reigning champion Anne Haug

Kat Matthews finishes second in the Ironman World Championship

British triathlete Kat Matthews secured a brilliant second place at her debut Ironman World Championship on the weekend, finishing behind Daniela Ryf (SUI), who claimed her fifth title with a trademark front-running performance in St George, Utah.


The 34-year-old Swiss opened a gap from Britain’s Kat Matthews in the second-half of the 112-mile bike leg and held it from thereon in to regain the title she last won in Hawaii in 2018.

Ryf took the tape in 8:34:59 – almost nine minutes ahead of debutant Matthews, who finished strongly on the marathon to hold off reigning champion Anne Haug. 

A good day for the Brits

Kat Matthews gets her head down on the bike during the 2021 Ironman World Championship (Credit: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images for Ironman)

After Lucy Charles-Barclayout here with an injury – finished second from 2017-2019, Matthews’ performance was the fourth time in succession a British triathlete has finished runner-up in the women’s race. It was also the latest impressive result in 31-year-old Matthews’ spectacular rise, having only turned professional in 2019.

Three other Brits also made the top 10, with Ruth Astle – who won the overall age-group title in 2019 – in fifth, Laura Siddall seventh, and Fenella Langridge eighth.

But it was Ryf’s day. Having finished 13th in Kona the last time the world championship ran in 2019, and struggling in last year’s Collins Cup and Ironman 70.3 worlds, plus further disappointment at Oceanside 70.3 last month, there was speculation that Ryf’s career was on the slide.

But elsewhere – and particularly at the full distance – the PTO world-ranked No 3, has remained largely infallible. Ryf won all five other races in 2021 and finished runner-up to Germany’s Laura Philipp in Dubai 70.3 to kick off this year’s action.

Now self-coached, Ryf’s victory brings her within one world title of fellow Swiss Natascha Badmann, with Paula Newby-Fraser leading the way with eight.

How the action unfolded

Daniela Ryf celebrates as she crosses the finish line to win the 2021 Ironman World Championship in St George (Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Ironman)

Hayley Chura led out the swim with a sizeable gap to Langridge, with Olympic 2012 silver medallist Lisa Norden taking advantage of Langridge’s wetsuit struggles to leave T1 in second. 

It didn’t take long for Norden to sweep past the US athlete, but despite the Swede being a national time-trial champion, it was the favourites of Ryf and Matthews, with eventual fourth-place finisher Skye Moench in close company, who were laying down the power and hit the front a third of the way into the 112-mile bike leg.

It was around the halfway mark that four-time winner Ryf made her move, pulling away from Matthews and extending it into the grinding climb into Snow Canyon in the more taxing later stages of the race. 

By the time they reached T2 the race was heating up, as was the temperature on course. Ryf hit T2 more than 7mins ahead of Matthews, with Norden 2mins further back, and the dangerous figure of Anne Haug in fourth place but over 15mins off the lead.

Ryf backed up her race-best 4:37:47 bike split on to the marathon, opening the gap to Matthews by a further 2mins through the first half of the marathon, and although Haug was on the charge she didn’t look threatened. 


Top image credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Ironman