The complete history of the World's most famous Triathlon
If you are a triathlete, there is no bigger day in this sport than the Ford Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
A Kona veteran offered the following words to Lardman.. "It's truly is the out of this world and you're very lucky to have the opportunity to experience it, and I mean that in the nicest way. It will be a life-changing experience - not that I'm saying the journey isn't either, but it really is the pinnacle of triathlon."
To get to the starting line in Kona, you must either be very lucky and get yourself a spot through the ironman lottery (as Lardman did - TWICE), or very talented, and win yourself a qualifying spot at one of the qualifying events held around the world.
Tens-of-thousands of triathletes try to get one of those coveted Ironman spots every year. Only 1,800 succeed. That means 1,800 "lucky" people get to test themselves on one of the biggest challenges the sports world has to offer ... 2.4-miles of swimming, 112-miles of biking, and a 26.2-mile marathon run through tough ocean waves, and challenging lava-covered terrain.
While there are thousands of triathlons around the world, it is this one that truly defines the sport. It was this race, first run in 1978 as a dare by a bunch of Navy Seals that put triathlon on the world's sporting map. It is triathlon's Super Bowl, Wimbledon, World Series, World Cup, and Tour de France all rolled into one. What makes this event so unique is that "average" people get to compete alongside the best in the world.
Start & Finish line of the Ironman Triathlon World Championship on Ali'i Drive in Kona Hawaii.The sport of triathlon was born in Southern California, where events involving swimming, cycling, running or other sports were run by athletic clubs celebrating summer exercise. The idea for the original Ironman Triathlon arose during the awards ceremony for the 1977 Oahu Perimeter Relay (a running race for 5-person teams). Among the participants were numerous representatives of both the Mid-Pacific Road Runners and the Waikiki Swim Club, whose members had long been debating which athletes were more fit, runners or swimmers. Ironman Triathlon was the first major competition to extend the distance to an extreme endurance event. The first Ironman Triathlon was held on February 18, 1978 in Honolulu, Hawaii, repeated in 1979 and 1980.
On this occasion, U.S. Navy Commander John Collins pointed out that a recent article in Sports Illustrated magazine had declared that Eddy Merckx, the great Belgian cyclist, had the highest recorded "oxygen uptake" of any athlete ever measured, so perhaps cyclists were more fit than anyone. Cdr. Collins and his wife had taken part in the triathlons staged in 1974 and 1975 by the San Diego Track Club in and around Mission Bay, California, as well as the 1975 Optimist Sports Fiesta Triathlon in Coronado, California. A number of the other military athletes in attendance were also familiar with the San Diego races, so they understood the concept when Cdr. Collins suggested that the debate should be settled through a race combining the three existing long-distance competitions already on the island: the Waikiki Roughwater Swim (2.4 mi./3.85 km), the Around-Oahu Bike Race (115 miles; originally a two-day event) and the Honolulu Marathon (26.2 mi./42.195 km).
Until that point, no one present had ever done the bike race; Cdr. Collins calculated that, by shaving 3 miles off the course and riding counter-clockwise around the island, the bike leg could start at the finish of the Waikiki Rough Water and end at the Aloha Tower, the traditional start of the Honolulu Marathon. Prior to racing, each athlete received three sheets of paper listing a few rules and a course description. Handwritten on the last page was this exhortation: "Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life", now a registered trademark.
With a nod to a local runner who was notorious for his demanding workouts, Collins said, "Whoever finishes first, we'll call him the Iron Man." Each of the racers had their own support crew to supply water, food and encouragement during the event. Of the fifteen men to start off in the early morning on February 18th, 1978, twelve completed the race. Gordon Haller was the first to earn the title Ironman by completing the course, with a time of 11 hours, 46 minutes, and 58 seconds.
With no further marketing efforts, the race gathered as many as 50 athletes in 1979. The race, however, was postponed a day because of bad weather conditions and only fifteen competitors started off the race Sunday morning. San Diego's Tom Warren won in 11 hours, 15 minutes, and 56 seconds. Lyn Lemaire, a championship cyclist from Boston, placed sixth overall and became the first "Ironwoman".
Collins planned on changing the race into a relay event to draw more participants, but Sports Illustrated's journalist Barry McDermott, in the area to cover a golf tournament, discovered the race and wrote a ten page account of it. During the following year, hundreds of curious participants contacted Collins.
In 1981 the competition was moved to the less urbanized Big Island by Valerie Silk and in 1982 Silk moved the race date from February to October; as a result of this change there were two Ironman Triathlon events in 1982.
A milestone in the marketing of the legend and history of the race happened in February 1982. Julie Moss, a college student competing to gather research for her exercise physiology thesis, moved toward the finish line in first place. As she came nearer to the finish line, severe fatigue and dehydration set in, falling yards away from the finish line. Although Kathleen McCartney passed her for the women’s title, Moss nevertheless crawled to the finish line. Her performance was broadcast worldwide and created the Ironman mantra that just finishing is a victory.
The sport of triathlon was added as an Olympic sport at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney as a shorter distance race (1.5 km swim, 40 km cycle, 10 km run).
The original Ironman is held in conditions which are uniquely punishing for endurance racing: the Hawaii water is warm enough that helpfully buoyant wetsuits are not allowed; though the cycling hills have only moderate gradients they are normally crossed by strong and gusting winds; and the marathon leg of the race is usually extremely hot. Other races under the WTC aegis have their own difficulties, characteristic of their setting and season. Anyone completing one of these races within the time limit, so long as it is the prescribed distance, is entitled to call him/herself an Ironman (the term being gender-neutral). At one time there was no cut-off time, then a 15 hour time limit - for these events the normal time limit is now 17 hours. Some iron distance races (not sanctioned by the WTC corporation, but using the same standard distances) have different cut-off times.
Today the Ironman format remains unchanged, and the Hawaiian Ironman is still regarded as the most honored and prestigious triathlon event to win worldwide. Many consider this to be the most arduous and demanding competitive sporting event. For the 25th anniversary on October 18, 2003, nearly 1500 athletes were enlisted, most of which had to go through qualification competitions (although some were admitted through the lottery).
Although thousands of athletes worldwide compete at an Ironman event each year, the vast majority aim simply to just finish the course if they are first timers, or set a PR (personal record) time if they've raced this distance before. Only very talented athletes realistically compete for a spot in Hawaii, and just finishing an Ironman race is often the highlight of many triathletes' career. Athletes with disabilities now compete in the event in the physically challenged category, and are required to meet the same cutoff times as able bodied competitors. Australian John Mclean was the first physically challenged athlete to complete the event.
People completing such an event are agreed to be recognized as "Ironmen": the plural "Ironmans" refers to multiples of "Ironman" as a short form of "Ironman Triathlon". In the triathlon community an Ironman is someone who has completed a race of the appropriate distance, whether or not it falls under the aegis of WTC.
The Ironman Triathlon is a grueling event that pushes its participants to the limits of endurance. Some, however, find the prescribed distances fall short of these limits. Hence, events such as the double iron triathlon have come about. More extreme formats have evolved; there are in fact triple, quadruple, quintuple, deca, and 15× events that are multiples of the original Ironman distance triathlon. The world records in the quintuple and deca iron races are held by a woman, Astrid Benöhr.
So here's a FULL history of the event...
During the awards ceremony for a Hawaii running race, a debate ensues among competitors about who is more fit -- swimmers, runners or other athletes. One of the participants, Navy Commander John Collins and his wife Judy, dream up a race to settle the argument. They propose combining three existing races together, to be completed in succession: the Waikiki Roughwater Swim (2.4 miles), the Around-Oahu Bike Race (112 miles, originally a two-day event) and the Honolulu Marathon (26.2 miles). "Whoever finishes first we’ll call the Ironman," said Collins. Fifteen men participate in the initial event held on February 18; 12 complete the race, led by the first Ironman, Gordon Haller. His winning time: 11 hours, 46 minutes and 58 seconds.
Word of mouth generates additional participant interest, and it appears that as many as 50 athletes will compete. But bad weather forces the postponement of the race for a day; when the starter’s pistol finally sounds on Sunday morning, just 15 competitors take the challenge. San Diego's Tom Warren, 35, wins in 11 hours, 15 minutes and 56 seconds. The first Ironwoman, Lyn Lemaire, a championship cyclist from Boston, places fifth overall. Even as Collins ponders changing the next race into a relay event to generate more participants, the race’s future is being re-written by Barry McDermott from Sports Illustrated. On the island to cover a golf tournament, McDermott discovers the race and writes a 10-page, larger-than-life account of the race that nets Collins hundreds of inquiries about the race.
Collins gives ABC's "Wide World of Sports" permission to film the event, but warns ABC executives that, "Watching the race is about as exciting as watching a lawn-growing contest." ABC’s coverage is somewhat more dramatic, and it brings Ironman worldwide recognition. The event draws 106 men and two women. Dave Scott, a 26-year-old masters swim coach from Davis, Calif., wins the event in 9:24:33. Robin Beck wins the women's division in 11:21:24, placing 12th overall. As people become familiar with the Ironman Triathlon, other triathlons of varying distances begin to take place around the world. Ironically, Collins is not on hand for the event, as the Navy transfers him to Washington, D.C. He entrusts the race to the owners of a local heath club.
Valerie Silk, one of the health club owners, takes over supervision of the race and makes the key decision to move the Ironman from the tranquil shores of Waikiki to the barren lava fields of Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. She does this primarily to avoid Honolulu's traffic hazards, but it lends the event a man-versus-nature element that becomes a signature component. Silk also rescinds the requirement that each competitor provide his or her own support crew. On February 14, approximately 950 volunteers and throngs of cheering spectators turn out to support the 326 athletes in the race. John Howard, formerly an Olympic cyclist, wins the first Big Island race in 9:38:29. Linda Sweeney, one of 20 female competitors, wins the women's division in 12:00:32. Walt Stack, the oldest competitor (73), finishes last in 26:20:00, setting Ironman's slowest finish time record.
The event becomes such a phenomenon that Bud Light pays to become title sponsor. The race attracts 580 contestants. Scott Tinley, a 25-year-old swim coach from San Diego, passes Dave Scott in the marathon and finishes in a record time of 9:19:41. Less than two hours later, the most memorable moment in race history occurs. Julie Moss, a college student competing to gather research for her exercise physiology thesis, steadfastly moves toward the finish line in first place despite becoming severely fatigued and dehydrated. In the homestretch, she staggers like a punch-drunk boxer. Just yards away from the finish line, she falls to the ground. Passed by Kathleen McCartney for the women’s title, Moss nevertheless crawls to the finish line. Her courage and determination inspires millions and creates the Ironman mantra that just finishing is a victory.
The race owners move its date to October to give athletes from colder climates better training conditions. Evidencing that the race is maturing, cutoff times are introduced. Contestants must complete the 140.6-mile course within 18 1/2 hours. Race organizers begin coordinating the race with the full moon to assist runners after dark. Dave Scott sets a new record in the swim (50:52) and overall time, finishing in 9:08:23. Three Californians set new women's records: Jennifer Hinshaw, 21, of Saratoga, swim course record (53:26); Julie Leach, 25, of Newport Beach, bike course record (5:50:36); and Sally Edwards, 35, of Sacramento, marathon record (3:27:55). Leach, a former Olympic kayaker, leads the women in 10:54:08.
Contestants now are required to finish the race within 17 hours. For the first time, a qualification system goes into effect restricting entry. The first mainland U.S. Ironman Triathlon, the Ricoh Ironman U.S. Championship, is held in Los Angeles in May, with top finishers in the men's and women's divisions selected to compete in the October World Championship. Dave Scott wins his third Ironman in a record time of 9:05:57. Also for the first time, the top spot in the women's division is won by a non-American, Sylviane Puntous, of Canada. She sets a women’s course record of 10:43:36.
Valerie Silk assumes race chairmanship and appoints Kona resident Kay Rhead as race director. Despite the boycott of the 23rd Olympics by some East European countries, the Eastern Bloc sends its first participant to the Ironman: Vaclav Vitovec, a 31-year-old Czechoslovakian. Californian Jennifer Hinshaw, 23, sets a women's swim record of 50:31 that will remain unbroken until 1997. Dave Scott wins his fourth Ironman in 8:54:20, becoming the first person to break the nine-hour barrier. Sylviane Puntous wins the women's title again, also in a record time of 10:25:13.
Participants from 34 countries and 46 states compete. Scott Tinley wins and sets a course record of 8:50:54. Tinley confirms his status as the pre-eminent triathlon trendsetter, becoming the first athlete to use aerobars. His race wear includes a pair of slipcovers for his cycling shoes. Joanne Ernst, 26, of Palo Alto, California, wins the women's division in 10:25:22. Rather than race, Dave Scott serves as a commentator for ABC's Ironman coverage. Possibly the most notable Ironman highlight this year is the debut of international qualifying races. The Double Brown Ironman in Auckland, New Zealand, takes place on March 24, and the Yanmar Ironman Japan at Lake Biwa occurs on June 30.
An anonymous donor provides race organizers with $100,000 in prize money. The purse further cements Ironman’s status as the most important triathlon in the world and sends a message to the sporting world that triathlon has become serious business. The race draws athletes from 48 states and 36 countries. Dave Scott "unretires" and takes more than 20 minutes off of the existing course record with a time of 8:28:37. Scott’s victory includes a 2:49 marathon, the first time any Ironman athlete has run under 2:50. The women’s race is marred by controversy as Patricia Puntous of Canada crosses the finish line first but is disqualified for a bike drafting infraction. Relative newcomer Paula Newby-Fraser of Zimbabwe is next across the line and her time of 9:49:14 sets a new women’s course record. A new international qualifying race, Ironman Canada, takes place in Penticton, British Columbia in August.
A then-record 1,381 triathletes start Ironman; 1,283 finish within the 17-hour time limit. Contestants represent 49 states and 44 countries. The professional prize purse increases to $150,000. Dave Scott, who doesn’t announce his intention to race until the week of the event, upstages a strong men’s field that includes Mark Allen and Mike Pigg. Scott’s sixth Ironman championship comes in 8:34:13. New Zealand's Erin Baker shatters the previous course record for women with a time of 9:35:25. Ironman introduces its first and only team competition for members of U.S. Armed Forces. Navy takes first place. The Kellogg Company introduces Pro Grain Cereal, referred to as "Ironman Food."
Kay Rhead, race director, dies in January after a two-year struggle with cancer. Valerie Silk appoints Debbie Baker as the new race director. The 15 men who competed in the first Ironman in 1978 are invited to return for the 10th Anniversary celebration. Ironman welcomes its largest contingent of Eastern Europeans, including two competitors from Estonia, USSR. Dave Scott withdraws the night before the race with knee problems. Paula Newby-Fraser shatters her own bike course record by nearly 25 minutes, and becomes the first woman to break five hours on the bike. Her winning time of 9:01:01 obliterates the previous women’s course record and for the first time gives evidence that a woman may be able to break the 9-hour mark at the Ironman Triathlon distance. Scott Molina, "The Terminator," takes advantage of Scott’s absence and bike problems experienced by pre-race favorite Mark Allen to win the men’s title in 8:31:00. Ironman Europe in Roth, West Germany, is established as the fourth international qualifier for Hawaii.
Triathlon giants Dave Scott and Mark Allen race neck-and-neck for 8 hours. After six previous attempts at the No. 1 spot, Allen finally overcomes the dehydration, exhaustion and technical problems that had beset him in earlier Ironman Triathlons; he breaks away from Scott with just 2 miles to go, winning in a record-smashing 8:09:15. Scott finishes 58 seconds later in 8:10:13. Both men break Scott's previous course record. Allen also sets a record marathon split of 2:40:04. Paula Newby-Fraser leads the women's field, breaking her 1988 course record by 5 seconds, to finish in 9:00:56. Newby-Fraser also breaks her 1988 run course record by 2 minutes.
Silk sells Ironman to veteran Ironman triathlete Dr. Jim Gills of Florida. He forms the World Triathlon Corporation and starts the Ironman Foundation, a charitable organization designed to benefit the people of West Hawaii. The race course is altered to avoid airport traffic, adding a trip to the south end of Alii Drive ("The Pit"), and the Natural Energy Lab of Hawaii (NELH) Road. Mark Allen, racing in the absence of injured Dave Scott, overcomes heat and gusty headwinds to capture his second consecutive Ironman Triathlon World Championship, in a time of 8:28:17. New Zealand's Erin Baker captures her second Ironman title, placing 19th overall in 9:13:42.
Mark Allen survives challenges from Australia's Greg Welch and Pennsylvanian Jeff Devlin to capture his third consecutive Ironman title in 8:18:32. Paula Newby-Fraser, already the most prolific women's winner in Ironman history, wins her fourth title, finishing 26th overall in 9:07:52. Of the 1,379 starters, 1,312 finish, an Ironman record. Off the course, the year is marked by several major developments: Ironman Australia becomes the fifth international race; Gatorade becomes new title sponsor, signing a five-year contract; and NBC Sports televises the Ironman for the first time.
David Yates becomes the president of the World Triathlon Corporation, with Sharron Ackles assuming the role of Ironman Race Director. Three-time defending champion Mark Allen is one of four men, led by German Jurgen Zack, who break the existing bike record. The race then turns into a duel between Allen and Chile's Christian Bustos. Allen, 34, of Cardiff, Calif., breaks away near the run turnaround, and wins an unprecedented fourth consecutive title in a record time of 8:09:08. It was not the only record, though; Paula Newby-Fraser, 30, the Zimbabwean who resides in Encinitas, Calif., breaks her own course record by nearly 5 minutes, becoming the first woman ever to eclipse the 9-hour mark at the Ironman with an 8:55:28 performance.
Mark Allen and Paula Newby-Fraser stamp their seals of greatness on the Ironman by repeating as champions. Allen, the 35-year-old Cardiff, Calif., resident, fights off a valiant challenge from Pauli Kiuru of Finland to win his fifth consecutive title. Following some of the fastest bike times in the history of the race, including a new bike record from Jurgen Zack of Germany, Allen passes Kiuru at the midpoint of the marathon and then races home with a record time of 8 hours, 7 minutes and 45 seconds. Newby-Fraser, coming back from a serious foot injury that threatened her chances of competing in Kona, breaks her own bike course record and runs the second-fastest women's marathon time of the day. Newby-Fraser's time of 8:58:23 is just shy of the course record she set in 1992; no other woman has ever broken 9 hours at the Ironman championship. Winning for the third-consecutive year, she also ties Dave Scott for most Ironman victories with six.
Paula Newby-Fraser becomes the only athlete, male or female, to record seven Ironman victories as she wins her fourth consecutive title in 9:20:14. Dave Scott, returning at age 40 to Kona for the first time in five years, amazingly nearly joins Newby-Fraser as a seven-time champion before claiming the most celebrated second-place finish since Julie Moss' 1982 heroics. Scott's vanquisher, and first-time Ironman champion, is Greg Welch of Australia, who fulfills, in his seventh try, all of the promise first seen when he burst on the triathlon scene in 1988 with a finishing time of 8:20:27. Jim Ward, 77, becomes the oldest athlete ever to complete the Ironman, finishing in 16:48. Dr. Jon Franks becomes the first wheelchair competitor in the race’s history. Franks misses the bike cutoff time, but completes the entire 112-mile bike course using a hand-powered bike.
Returning to the Ironman Triathlon World Championship after a one-year hiatus, Mark Allen makes up a 13-minute deficit to Ironman rookie Thomas Hellriegel of Germany on the marathon course to claim his sixth Ironman title in seven years finishing in 8:20:34. In the women’s race, Karen Smyers passes a stumbling Paula Newby-Fraser with less than a quarter-mile left in the race to break Newby-Fraser's four-race winning streak. Newby-Fraser had opened up an 11-minute lead off the bike, but Smyers ran the second fastest marathon in the history (3:05:20) of the women's race to finish in 9:16:46. Conditions on the course are among the most difficult ever seen, with headwinds sometimes reaching 45 miles per hour. Darryl Haley, formerly an NFL offensive lineman, becomes the largest athlete at 6’5", 300 lbs., to ever complete the race.
Luc Van Lierde, 27, of Belgium, in his initial Ironman, becomes the first European athlete to win the event, breaking the course record by more than three minutes with a time of 8:04:08. Germany's Thomas Hellriegel sets a new bike course record of 4:24:50 and places second overall in 8:06:07, a time that also betters the previous course record. In the women's race, Ironman Hall of Fame inductee Paula Newby-Fraser wins her eighth Hawaii Ironman title in 9:06:49. In the closest women's race since the early 1980s, Newby-Fraser has to run down Iron-rookie Natascha Badmann of Switzerland during the latter part of the marathon. Badmann places second in 9:11:19. Another significant Ironman milestone takes place at Ironman Europe during the summer as Lothar Leder of Germany becomes the first athlete ever to break the 8-hour barrier in a time of 7:57:02.
Thomas Hellriegel leads a trifecta of Germans first across the finish line in race conditions that longtime Ironman competitor Scott Tinley calls the toughest ever. Strong and steady headwinds averaging 30 mph slow the bike and cloudless skies with temperatures in the low 90s combine to produce the slowest finish times in a decade. The conditions set the stage for the biggest surprise victory in the history of the women’s race as Heather Fuhr of Canada, renowned for her ability to handle the heat, runs nearly 15 minutes faster than any of the top five women to claim her first Ironman title in 9:31:43. Three other notable Ironman happenings that occur include John MacLean of Australia celebrating the debut of the championship’s physically challenged division by becoming the first athlete to power a hand-crank bike and wheelchair to an official finish; Jim Ward’s competing as the first 80-year-old in race history; and Belgian Luc Van Lierde leading four men under 8 hours at Ironman Europe with a new world record time of 7:50:27.
The Ironman Triathlon World Championship celebrates its 20th Anniversary. Race founder John Collins, comes across the finish line in 16 hours, 30 minutes and 2 seconds after a 19-year hiatus from Ironman racing. Seven of the original 15 Ironman competitors are on hand to watch the race, while six of them compete. Among them is the race’s original winner Gordon Haller who finishes in 14:27:01. Also on hand are 17 of Ironman’s 21 past champions including: Scott Molina, Scott Tinley, Thomas Hellriegel, Heather Fuhr, Paula Newby-Fraser, Tom Warren and course record holder, Luc Van Lierde. Canada’s Peter Reid, 29, claims his first Ironman Triathlon World Championship title in some of the worst wind conditions ever recorded at Ironman by finishing in 8:24:20. Switzerland’s Natascha Badmann, 31, takes the lead early in the bike and stays in front all day until breaking the tape in 9:24:16. Defending Ironman champ Heather Fuhr breaks the existing women’s marathon course record set in 1990 by running a 3:04:02. Wendy Ingraham breaks her own swim record set in 1997 with a time of 49:11. In other news, Ironman Austria and Ironman USA Lake Placid join the family of Ironman events, and David Yates steps down as president and is succeeded by Lew Friedland.
In one of the most hotly contested races ever, Canadian Lori Bowden and Belgian Luc Van Lierde capture the championship crowns, finishing in 9:13:02 and 8:17:17 respectively. For Bowden, 32, this is her first championship title. She had finished second in Hawaii two years in a row before landing the top spot. Bowden’s blistering 2:59 marathon breaks the course record set by Heather Fuhr in 1998 by five minutes. This was 30-year-old Van Lierde’s second championship title. Van Lierde won the race as a rookie in 1996 and set the current course record of 8:04:08. Jodi Jackson, 22, from Honolulu, Hawaii, sets a new swim course record of 48:43. American Tim DeBoom, 28, from Boulder, CO, leads the race for three hours before eventually finishing third in 8:25:42. DeBoom’s finish is the highest placing for an American male in Hawaii since 1995. Lyn Brooks, 51, from Baltimore, MD, becomes the first person to ever finish 20 consecutive Ironman Triathlon World Championship races, with a time of 14:44:20. Ironman Hall of Famer, Scott Tinley, 42, from Del Mar, CA, competes in his 20th and final Ironman race, finishing in 10:37:00. A two-time Ironman champion, Tinley announces his retirement following the race. On the Ironman scene, Peter Reid and Lori Bowden become the first husband and wife to win the same event in the same year, when they dominate the Ironman Australia Triathlon. Several inaugural Ironman races are run including the Isuzu Ironman Lake Placid and Florida Triathlons. Ironman Austria joins the international roster of Ironman events.
Some days are tougher than others on the Ironman course in Kona, and this year whipping winds made this year's bike leg one of the toughest ever. Everyone had tales of two-fisted, white-knuckle cycling, and a few unfortunate competitors were knocked off their bike and out of the race by the "mumukus". Peter Reid of Canada (8:21:01) and Natascha Badmann of Switzerland (9:26:17) survived the battle best, in performances reminiscent of their 1998 efforts here, where they both captured their first Ironman title. Reid and the rest of the Ironman world was surprised two days before the race when defending champion Luc Van Lierde withdrew and went home to Belgium, citing a lack of mental preparedness to give his best effort. American Tim DeBoom proved last year's third place finish was no fluke, this time taking second, just over 2 minutes behind Reid. This marked the first time in 20 years the Ironman event had been staged without Ironman Hall of Famer Scott Tinley, and Baltimore's Lyn Brooks. On the women's side of the race, Badmann turned in the fastest bike split of the day (5:06:43), staking her to a 17 minute advantage over defending champion and pre-race favorite Lori Bowden. She needed most of that cushion, as Bowden delivered the fastest marathon of the day (3:04:20), ultimately closing the gap to less than 3 minutes. Former motocross champion David Bailey pulled out a victory over rival Carlos Moleda in the wheelchair division in this third and final Ironman. WTC website Ironmanlive.com delivered flawless coverage of the event worldwide over the Internet for the first time, recording on video the moment of triumph for all 1427 finishers as they crossed the Alii Drive finish line.
Just three weeks after September 11, amidst crowd chants of "USA, USA," American Tim DeBoom, 30, of Lyons, Colorado, brings the Ironman crown back to the United States for the first time since 1995. Switzerland's Natascha Badmann, 34, successfully defends her title, earning her a third championship crown. Seventy-one-year-old Bob Scott from Naperville, Illinois, breaks his own record in the men's 70-74 age group. Scott's 12:59:02 is nearly 15 minutes faster than his time in 2000. Laura Sophiea, 46, from Pleasant Ridge, MI, upsets 12-time age group champion Missy LeStrange, 49, by winning the women's 45-49 age group. Perennial Ironman favorite, Wendy Ingraham retires from Hawaii competition. Six-time Ironman champion Dave Scott returns once again to Ironman, but pulls out during the cycling portion of the event. In other Ironman news, the inaugural Half Ironman U.K. Triathlon takes place in Llanberis, North Wales, with 1,400 athletes competing. Ironman Japan, now based on Fukue Island just south of Nagasaki, returns to the lineup of international events.
Both the USA’s Tim DeBoom, 31, from Lyons, CO, and Switzerland’s Natascha Badmann, 35, successfully defend their Ironman titles winning in 8:29:56 and 9:07:54 respectively. With his win, DeBoom becomes the first man to capture successive Ironman titles since 1993. This year’s win marks Badmann’s third consecutive championship crown, taking her total world championship wins to four. Norton Davey, 84, from Oceanside, CA, becomes Ironman’s oldest starter ever. The prize purse is increased from $325,000 to $429,000 with the male and female champion each taking home $100,000. Marcos Alegre and Donna Smyers set new records in the 65-69 and 45-49 age groups. Ironman Wisconsin joins the Ironman family of events, with the inaugural event taking place in Madison on September 15.
Ironman’s 25th Anniversary race is a clean sweep for Canada as Peter Reid and Lori Bowden both reclaim the title of World Champion. Reid uses his superior running ability to come from behind for the win. Belgian sensation, Rutger Beke, storms onto the Ironman scene with a second place finish at his first Ironman Triathlon World Championship. In the women’s race, Bowden also uses a blistering marathon time to chase down defending champion Natascha Badmann and Germany’s Nina Kraft to seize the title. Jeff Cuddeback breaks the 45-49 age group record and now owns the fastest time in three separate age groups. Missy LeStrange adds her name to the record books for a second time with a dominating performance in the 50-54 age group. For the first time in Ironman history, 20 slots are auctioned off on E-bay to raise more than $400,000 for the Kona YMCA. Ironman racing continues to expand with the addition of Ironman Coeur d’Alene in Idaho on June 29.
Germany’s Normann Stadler and Switzerland’s Natascha Badmann were victorious this year. The win was a first for Stadler, known as the “Norminator,” and the fifth for Badmann, nicknamed the “Swiss Miss.” Stadler becomes the second German to win the Ironman Triathlon World Championship with a time of 8:33:29 and the win for Badmann at 9:50:04, moves her to within three victories of Paula Newby-Fraser’s record eight wins in Kona. The men’s field featured several top names, including Peter Reid and Tim DeBoom. Stadler, known for his cycling prowess, had an 8-minute lead at the 100-mile marker of the bike leg. 2003 champion, Peter Reid, placed second with a time of 8:43:40. Relative newcomer Faris Al-Sultan had a time of 8:45:24 and Alex Taubert had a time of 8:48:35. The German duo placed third and fourth respectively. Rounding out the men’s top five was Rutger Beke, with a time of 8:54:23. Badmann, consistent as usual, ran her own race and showed how a little patience and experience can pay off. Another women’s field veteran, Heather Fuhr, pounded out a second place finish at 9:56:19. In third place was Australia’s Kate Major with a time of 10:01:56. Canadian Lisa Bentley took fourth place at 10:04:00. The Ironman Triathlon World Championship, in its 28th year, had 1,734 athletes at the starting line. Throughout 2004, more than 50,000 competitors strived to qualify for one of 1,800 spots at the event. More than 4,300 entered the lottery program, where 150 slots were given to U.S. athletes and 50 slots were distributed to international athletes.
Germany’s Faris Al-Sultan and Switzerland’s Natascha Badmann claim victories this year. Al-Sultan earns his first World Championship title, while Badmann earns her sixth. This is a significant win for Al-Sultan, as it is his second Ironman title and makes him the third German to win the Ford Ironman World Championship. This win pushes Badmann to a near record and places her only two victories away from Ironman legend Paula Newby-Fraser’s record eight wins in Kona. Both the men’s and women’s field boast talented Ironman athletes including Peter Reid, Rutger Beke, Cameron Widoff and Kate Major and newer Ironman talent such as Kate Allen and Michellie Jones. This proves to be a great year for athletes, as many of the professional athletes achieve their fastest bike, run and overall times. Like the professional field, age groupers also see many personal bests, as sixteen Ford Ironman World Championship age group course records are broken. In addition to the talented professional field, there are many unique and inspirational age group athletes making a mark on this year’s event. Robert McKeague becomes the oldest athlete to cross an Ironman finish line. At 80-years-old, McKeague from Villa Park, IL, finishes with a time of 16:21:55. Sarah Reinertsen, from Portola Hill, CA, who attempted to become the first female amputee to finish in 2004, accomplishes her goal and makes Ironman history. Reinertsen missed the bike cut-off in 2004, but finishes this year with a time of 15:05:12. More than 50,000 athletes from around the world competed to be a part of this year’s World Championship.
Two-time world champion, Normann Stadler from Germany and Australia’s Michellie Jones celebrated victorious finishes this year. Additionally, several other athletes demonstrated the Ironman spirit.
- David Rozelle -- While in Iraq, commanding 140 troops of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, Captain David Rozelle lost part of his right leg when a landmine exploded under his Humvee. With intensive rehabilitation, as a below-the-knee amputee, Rozelle returned to active duty and an active lifestyle. After completing the 2004 San Diego Triathlon Challenge, he became a mentor in the Challenged Athletes Foundation’s Operation Rebound Program and set his sights on the Ford Ironman World Championship in Hawaii.
- David Samson – As President of the Florida Marlins Major League Baseball Team, Samson was inspired to complete an Ironman after watching the 1995 Ironman broadcast. His lifelong dream became a reality this year while he raced to raise money for two charities close to his heart, the Challenged Athletes Foundation and the Florida Marlins Community Foundation, an organization that promotes educational, athletic, health and community service programs with a particular focus on South Florida’s youth.
- Jon Blais – Blais completed the 2005 Ford Ironman World Championship despite being diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. This year, Blais returned to Kona to celebrate the athletic accomplishments of new supporters of “The War on ALS.”
- Sister Madonna Buder – At 76 years of age, Buder holds the title of the oldest female finisher of the Ford Ironman World Championship and also became this year’s last official finisher with a time of 16:59:03.
Lardman lines up with all the greats!!! There’s one thing for sure from this day’s coverage: No one could have predicted the events of this day here at the Ford Ironman World Championship.
It was a day that saw some sort of a stomach virus take out both defending champions (Michellie Jones and Normann Stadler), the champion from two years ago (Faris Al-Sultan); a run in with a road cone take out a six-time winner (Natascha Badmann); and a leg injury sideline Luke Bell. Joanna Lawn, for the second year in a row, was sick for much of the day, too.
This was a topsy-turvy day right from the start. Only a last minute sprint at the end of the swim allowed Francisco Pantano to get out of the water ahead of Linda Gallo. In fact, Pantano and a number of the men who lead out of the water owe Gallo a huge thanks – if it wasn’t for her they wouldn’t have enjoyed any sort of lead over the man they wanted to gap into T1, Normann Stadler. In the end Gallo was just two seconds away from becoming the first woman to lead the way out of the water overall here at the Ford Ironman World Championship after powering to the front and keeping the men honest through the second half of the swim. Instead of her usually quick swim, Michellie Jones wasn’t herself either – turns out she had a perforated ear drum from being hit in an open water swim three weeks ago. Rutger Beke got hit in the face during the swim today – he was pretty much out of commission for the rest of the day.
The craziness continued early in the bike. Normann Stadler looked like he was making a break to the front, then pulled to the side of the road and promptly threw up. Within a few miles he was out of the race. Natascha Badmann, one of the best cyclists this sport has ever seen, hit a cone and totaled her bike, not to mention her body, early on in the second leg of the day. Michellie Jones was yet another casualty to the throwing up problem at 70 miles.
Things didn’t get any more normal out on the run. While we’re used to seeing the fast runners pass the fast cyclists here in Kona (unless the fast cyclist’s name’s initials are NS), we’re not used to seeing a Kona rookie fight for the lead, as Craig Alexander did. We’re also not used to seeing anyone post a 2:42:02 marathon, as Chris McCormack did today to claim his long coveted first Ironman title.
We’re even less used to seeing a woman who has only done one Ironman (7 weeks ago in Korea) and only been involved in the sport for a little over a year not only claim the world title, but run a 2:59:58 marathon to do that. That said, we’re even less used to a complete Ironrookie finishing second, while running a 3:00:52 marathon, as Samantha McGlone did here today. It’s also not completely normal to see a guy who was in such a bad car accident that he died again and again and again, then spent a couple of months in a medically induced coma, not only recover enough to compete as a collegiate swimmer but also complete the Ironman … Brian Boyle managed that feat.
It’s especially not normal to see a double amputee finish an Ironman. Way to go Scott Rigsby.
You don’t often see a little boy run across the finish line with one of the greatest pros our sport has ever seen, either. Carter, a seven-year-old from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, has cystic fibrosis. Thanks to the Make a Wish foundation, he got the chance to finish today’s race with his hero, a fellow CF sufferer who also happens to have won 11 Ironman races in her amazing career – one Lisa Bentley.
While we’re used to seeing people use their Ironman efforts to raise money for charity, we’re most definitely not used to seeing anyone raise $1.8 million, as Kirsten Kincaid did in honor of a little boy named Matt who died earlier this year. So what did go according to the norm here at the Ford Ironman World Championship? Things got back to normal when we saw athletes like Laura Sophiea and Cherie Gruenfeld claim yet another age group world title. Things got back to normal, too, when the winds picked up and stopped a whole pile of people in their tracks heading up to Hawi, and then again as they rode back along the Queen K.
Things also got back to normal, too, when we saw so many of the 1,788 starters of this race finish the Ironman in impressive times despite the tough heat and wind.
As wacky as this day was, in the end it all returned to normal. We saw so many amazing stories, crowned two very deserving and impressive champions and witnessed a slew of incredible athletic performances.
Notable Ironman triathletes
- Paula Newby-Fraser
8-time winner of the Ironman Hawaii (overall record)
4 consecutive victories in Hawaii
24 Ironman victories overall (overall record)
Nickname is "The Queen of Kona"
- Natascha Badmann
First European female winner of Ironman Hawaii
6-time winner of the Ironman Hawaii
- Dave Scott
6-time winner of the Ironman Hawaii (men's record)
Nickname is "The Man"
- Mark Allen
6-time winner of the Ironman Hawaii (men's record)
5 consecutive victories in Hawaii (overall record)
Nickname is "The Grip"
- Greg Welch
First non-American male winner of Ironman Hawaii
Won the Grand Slam of races during his career
Nickname is "Mighty Mouse"
- Luc Van Lierde
First European male winner of Ironman Hawaii
Current time-record holder (8:04:08)
Holder of all-time record (7:50:27 in 1996 Ironman Europe)
- Scott Rigsby
October 1, 2006 - Rigsby becomes the "first documented double amputee in the world to ever finish a Half-Ironman on prosthetic legs" at the South Carolina Half-Ironman.
October 13, 2007 - Rigsby becomes the "first-ever below-the-knee double amputee to finish an Ironman event" at Ironman Hawaii. (16:42:48)
- Karen Smyers
Only pro triathlete to win Triathlon Worlds (Olympic distance) and Ironman World Championship in the same year.
- Lardman ???
Winners of Hawaii Ironman
- 2007 Chrissie Wellington 9:08:45 United Kingdom
- 2006 Michellie Jones 9:18:31 Australia
- 2005 Natascha Badmann 9:09:30 Switzerland
- 2004 Natascha Badmann 9:50:04 Switzerland
- 2003 Lori Bowden 9:11:55 Canada
- 2002 Natascha Badmann 9:07:54 Switzerland
- 2001 Natascha Badmann Switzerland
- 2000 Natascha Badmann 9:26:17 Switzerland
- 1999 Lori Bowden 9:13:02 Canada
- 1998 Natascha Badmann 9:24:16 Switzerland
- 1997 Heather Fuhr 9:31:43 Canada
- 1996 Paula Newby-Fraser 9:06:49 Zimbabwe
- 1995 Karen Smyers 9:16:46 United States
- 1994 Paula Newby-Fraser 9:20:14 Zimbabwe
- 1993 Paula Newby-Fraser 8:58:23 Zimbabwe
- 1992 Paula Newby-Fraser 8:55:28 Zimbabwe
- 1991 Paula Newby-Fraser 9:07:52 Zimbabwe
- 1990 Erin Baker 9:13:42 New Zealand
- 1989 Paula Newby-Fraser 9:00:56 Zimbabwe
- 1988 Paula Newby-Fraser 9:01:01 Zimbabwe
- 1987 Erin Baker 9:35:25 New Zealand
- 1986 Paula Newby-Fraser 9:49:14 Zimbabwe
- 1985 Joanne Ernst 10:25:22 United States
- 1984 Sylviane Puntous 10:25:13 Canada
- 1983 Sylviane Puntous 10:43:36 Canada
- 1982 (Oct) Julie Leach 10:54:08 United States
- 1982 (Feb) Kathleen McCartney United States
- 1981 Linda Sweeney 12:02:32 United States
- 1980 Robin Beck 11:21:24 United States
- 1979 Lyn Lemaire United States
- 2007 Chris McCormack 8:15:34 Australia
- 2006 Normann Stadler 8:11:56 Germany
- 2005 Faris Al-Sultan 8:14:17 Germany
- 2004 Normann Stadler 8:33:29 Germany
- 2003 Peter Reid 8:22:35 Canada
- 2002 Tim DeBoom 8:29:56 United States
- 2001 Tim DeBoom 8:31:18 United States
- 2000 Peter Reid 8:21:01 Canada
- 1999 Luc Van Lierde 8:17:17 Belgium
- 1998 Peter Reid 8:24:20 Canada
- 1997 Thomas Hellriegel 8:33:01 Germany
- 1996 Luc Van Lierde 8:04:08 Belgium
- 1995 Mark Allen 8:20:34 United States
- 1994 Greg Welch 8:20:27 Australia
- 1993 Mark Allen 8:11:45 United States
- 1992 Mark Allen 8:09:08 United States
- 1991 Mark Allen 8:18:32 United States
- 1990 Mark Allen 8:28:17 United States
- 1989 Mark Allen 8:09:15 United States
- 1988 Scott Molina 8:31:00 United States
- 1987 Dave Scott 8:34:13 United States
- 1986 Dave Scott 8:28:37 United States
- 1985 Scott Tinley 8:50:54 United States
- 1984 Dave Scott 8:54:20 United States
- 1983 Dave Scott 9:05:57 United States
- 1982 (Oct) Dave Scott 9:08:23 United States
- 1982 (Feb) Scott Tinley 9:19:41 United States
- 1981 John Howard 9:38:29 United States
- 1980 Dave Scott 9:24:33 United States
- 1979 Tom Warren 11:15:56 United States
- 1978 Gordon Haller 11:46:58 United States