“I want to thank my family for everything. I was a kid who wanted to win this race and lots of parents would say: ‘Go and get a real job.’
“There were moments when I wanted to quit [the sport] and they said: ‘We think you’ve got it in you.’”
On a record-breaking day in Kona, the 23-year-old set a new bike course record of 4:04:36, lowering Cameron Wurf’s existing mark by an incredible 5mins, on his way to a time of 7:42:24.
It meant he split the Norwegians on the podium, with reigning champion Kristian Blummenfelt 60secs back in third.
Lost for words
“I’m pretty speechless,” Laidlow added, having led until the 22-mile mark in the marathon. “It’s been a long time coming and it means the world to me, my dad [Sam’s coach], and my whole family.
“I’ve dreamt of winning this race. Today I put 8mins or so into Jan [Frodeno’s] record but it wasn’t enough.
“We knew from a few years ago that my numbers are there, I just needed a race to come together.
“I’ve had races where I’ve done good bike splits and crumbled at 35k on the run.
“Today I had good legs, I PB’d power on the bike and I PB’d on my run. It was 315 watts on the bike and a 2:44 marathon, which is great in these conditions.
“We knew I was capable of it, but it feels special when you do it.”
Laidlow was born in Bedfordshire in the UK but moved to the south of France at the age of three when his parents set up a triathlon training camp in Amélie-les-Bains-Palalda in the Pyrenees.
“I wanted to go under eight hours”
Despite the epic performance, the day hadn’t got off to the best of starts for Laidlow who is one of the best swimmers in the sport.
“Coming out of the swim it was probably the worst race situation it could have been for me,” he explained.
“In St George it was just a small group and we already had 4-5mins on Kristian and even more on the other guys.
“But I stuck to my plan, which is always to race aggressively. I was worried there’d be a massive pack behind and they’d barely be pedalling, but I made the race hard and that was to my advantage.
“I knew at the turnaround I still had a lot in me. I was slightly over target wattage but I felt great the whole day.
“When I came off the bike, I knew I’d ridden fast, and I wanted to go under 8hrs, which I believed would have got me a great result.”
In fact, in by far the fastest Ironman ever seen on the Big Island, a time of 8hrs would only have resulted in 10th place.
“After St George, I predicted that the top eight guys in Hawaii will all go sub-eight,” Laidlow added. “It’s just a new era. Up until now there were only four guys in history [under 8hrs]. Now there are 14.”
A painful finish
Laidlow also revealed that he was struggling with foot pain that flared up during the race.
“This past week I’ve had a pain in my foot. It really started to get bad on the last few kilometres.
“I’ve had this pain before when I had a stress fracture. I hope it’s not that, but if it is, it was worth it.”
As for holding off Iden, today he just couldn’t quite manage it.
“I thought if I could get to 10km to go with a 2min gap I could hold him off. But at 12k suddenly Gustav got to about 75secs.
“When he came past me I tried but after 30km in the marathon you don’t even know what is going on. Your mind is blurred and you just keep going.
“That last 10km is when your deep motivation kicks in and the reasons you really do it.”
Top images credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images for Ironman