Daniela Ryf has accomplished the hat trick, claiming the crown at the Ironman World Championship on Saturday for the third consecutive time. She joins the ranks of Chrissie Wellington, Paula Newby-Fraser, Natascha Badmann, Dave Scott, and Mark Allen with three consecutive wins in Kona, Hawaii.
This is also the second time she has won both the Ironman 70.3 World Championship and the Ironman World Championship in the same year, duplicating her 2015 feat and surpassing Craig Alexander and Leanda Cave who have one double apiece.
While Ryf ultimately finished nearly ten minutes ahead of the field over the 3.8-kilometer swim, 180-kilometer bike, and 42-kilometer run, she did not find the front until late on the bike leg. Coming out of the water over four minutes down, she had to work through a bad patch where she could not make any inroads on the leaders.
Ryf said, “My legs just didn’t want to go. I took energy, as much as I could put in. It was hard. I was really fighting today. In the last 40 kilometers I said, ‘Now I’m going to go, or I’m going to lose.’”
Go she did, making up for lost time with the day’s fastest bike split to take over the lead in the closing kilometers. “It helped me mentally, and then I just thought it’s going to be a very hard marathon,” she admitted. She still ran the fastest marathon on the day, effectively shutting out all challengers. “I think it was the hardest I ever had to fight for a win. It makes it even sweeter.”
It was also a hard-fought race on the men’s side for Bahrain Endurance athletes. Terenzo Bozzone locked out a career-high 6th place after a disappointing DNF last year. Ben Hoffman followed in 9th place after battling for a podium spot in the opening half of the marathon.
The Kona gods were unfavorable to Brent McMahon and David Plese, who both pulled out of the race during the bike leg. McMahon had a bad reaction to a box jellyfish sting, while Plese struggled with overheating and the after-effects of a bike crash three weeks prior to the race.
2016 Ironman World Champion Jan Frodeno soldiered on to a 35th place finish, overcoming lower back pain that threatened to make him pull out as he started the marathon in fourth position. “It was a downright awful day,” he admitted. “Just when you think you’ve got this race figured out, it does a 180 on you and I guess it’s a tradition of our sport. So many guys out there are still fighting and fighting for a long time and it was my first taste of what some of the age groupers get to feel. Again, my respect for you guys has grown.”
It was a bittersweet Ironman World Championship for the Bahrain Endurance 13, said team CEO Chris McCormack. “Daniela with the three-peat has entered hallowed ground in our sport, while Jan is an absolute class act for finishing as he did.”