Swim Update 7:45 a.m.: As expected, Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay was the first out of the water after the 2.4-mile swim in Kailua Bay, the first leg of today’s all-female VinFast Ironman World Championship.
In rough seas, Charles-Barclay finished in 49 minutes and 36 seconds, slower than the record time of 48:13 she set in 2016.
A chase group of six triathletes, including American rookie Taylor Knibb, were about 1 minute and 29 seconds behind her coming out of the water. The others in this group: Haley Chura, Lauren Brandon, Rebecca Clarke, Lotte Wilms and Rachel Zilinskas.
Knibb won the 2022 Women’s Ironman 70.3 World Championship. She finished 16th in the 202 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Defending Ironman World champion Chelsea Sodaro was 12th out of the water in 54 seconds, 4:23 behind Charles-Barclay. Also in a group with Sodaro was five-time champion Daniela Ryf, 4:35 behind the leader. Last year, Ryf was about 5:30 behind out of the swim.
Next: The 112-mile bike leg.
“The bike course is a beauty and a beast,” said Laura Philipp, who was 26th out of the water at 56:49, during a prerace interview. “If you’re unlucky, there will be headwinds and sidewinds that make you feel like you are not going fast.”
And they’re off! The all-women’s VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona is underway
Original post at 6:45 a.m.: Downtown Kona was packed with people and filled with excitement early Saturday morning as daylight began to peak over Hualalai. Hawaiian music and Tahitian drums blared over the sound system.
It was about 78 degrees with a slight breeze at 6:25 a.m., when the pro triathletes began the 2.4-mile swim in Kailua Bay.
They were off for the first all-women’s VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona.
The best female professional and amateur triathletes in the world are now battling in a bid to be crowned the next champion — or just to finishing the grueling 140.6-mile course.
Live coverage of the race will air on Ironman Live, as well as Live L’Equipe for the French audience, and HR television and Sportschau for the German audience.
After the swim, the athletes run out of the bay and head to their bikes for the grueling 112-mile ride on Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway through lava fields in the heat and with potentially strong crosswinds. The course takes competitors north to Hawī and then back to the Kailua Pier.
The iconic race culminates with a 26.2-mile run — a marathon – which again takes triathletes back to Ka‘ahumanu Highway where they once again battle the Kona heat as they run through Hawaiian Ocean and Technology Park just south of Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport. Those who complete the course will be cheered along Aliʻi Drive to cross the finish line where they started, at Kailua Pier.
As competitors make their way through the course, pro triathlete Sarah Crowley of Australia said coming out of the swim and onto the bike will come down to grit and determination.
“Anything can happen in this heat and the conditions of the day,” she said. “I wish everyone the best.”
Pro competitors to watch include reigning Ironman World Champion 34-year-old Chelsea Sodaro of the United States.
The strong pro field is packed with worthy triathletes vying to take the championship from Sodaro. Among them is USA’s Sarah True, this year’s European Ironman Champion.
Also from the United States is 25-year-old Taylor Knibb, who is competing in the Ironman World Championship for the first time. She captured the VinFast Ironman 70.3 World Championship title (half the distance of the Ironman) in Finland this year.
Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf – nicknamed “Angry Bird” due to her steely determined face during races – will attempt to win back her title after failing to defend it in 2022, finishing a disappointing 8th. Ryf has won five Ironman World Championships. She also holds the race’s record for the best female finish, at 8:26:18 in 2018.
Last year’s podium finishers, Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay, who often is out of the water first, and Germany’s Anne Haug also may be in contention at the end.
Other pros to watch are Germany’s Laura Philipp, Sweden’s Lisa Norden and Great Britain’s Kat Matthews.
There has been talk about how this year’s field of pro triathletes is the strongest in the history of the championship race. During Thursday’s press conference, the pro-women celebrated the female power on the Kona course and wished their opponents nothing but the best.
But that doesn’t mean they won’t battle it out for the top spot today.
“I think it’s going to be the toughest race we’ve had on the island, obviously the conditions play into it, but definitely the field we have this year is going to be the biggest factor on the day,” Charles-Barclay said Thursday. “Having strong athletes across all the disciplines you’re just going to have to put on the best day that you can across every discipline of the race and just see how you end up at the end.”
Hawai‘i Island is represented on race day with 10 local competitors:
- Brenda Avery, 58, of Kailua-Kona
- Brenda Bettencourt, 64, of Kailua-Kona
- Laura Birse, 45, of Hilo
- Sonja Correa, 44, of Kailua-Kona
- Greta Friesen, 36, of Hōnaunau
- Esra Lynch, 55, of Kamuela
- Lynn Mattix, 42, of Kailua-Kona
- Skye Ombac, 27, of Hilo
- Monica Price, 51, of Kailua-Kona
- Carleigh Rittel, 35, of Kailua-Kona
Editor’s Note: Big Island Now will provide updates and final coverage of the race.