IRONMAN World Championship
The IRONMAN World Championship is finally set to return to its spiritual home in Kona on the ‘Big Island’ of Hawaii in October 2022.
We are now almost three years away from the last time elite triathletes raced in Kona for the biggest prize in triathlon, but the journey back home is almost complete.
The 2020 version of the race was eventually cancelled and the 2021 race – first rescheduled for February 22 – was rescheduled yet again and finally took place in St George, Utah on Saturday May 7, 2022. Kristian Blummenfelt won the men’s race, with Daniela Ryf topping the podium for PRO women.
Now the IRONMAN World Championship will return at last to Kona for its normal scheduled slot in October 2022, though there have been calls in some quarters for the event to move location on a regular basis.
The women’s PRO race takes place on Thursday October 6, with the men racing two days later on Saturday October 8. Age-Group athletes are distributed between the two days.
For many though, notably modern-day GOAT Jan Frodeno (who famously said “We ain’t playing Wimbledon down in Sussex”), competing in Kona is the dream and pinnacle of the sport.
How to qualify for the IRONMAN World Championship
For both PRO and Age Group triathletes, earning a slot at the IRONMAN World Championship is a huge part of their year. Entry is usually by qualification only.
Each year IRONMAN offers a specific number of PRO and Age-Group IM WC slots in a designated list of races. The athletes finishing in the relevant positions are offered those slots to the IRONMAN World Championship. If athletes who are already qualified finish in those slots, then they are offered to the next unqualified athletes to finish.
Finally, IRONMAN also has a Legacy Program, introduced in 2012, which offers Age-Group athletes another route into the IRONMAN World Championship. Athletes who have completed 12 full-distance IRONMAN-branded races but never had the opportunity to race at Kona, may be awarded a slot through the scheme. It costs $50 to register online for the program and if the slots are oversubscribed athletes may be placed on a waiting list.
Who has won the IRONMAN World Championship?
Elite triathlon’s hall of fame includes some incredible names, and many of them have at one time or another broken the tape first at the IRONMAN World Championship.
For Pro long-distance triathletes, reigning in Kona is the greatest achievement of their career, and some have done it more than once.
On the women’s side Paula Newby-Fraser claimed an incredible eight titles between 1986 and 1996, while Swiss megastar Natascha Badmann would top the podium six times for Switzerland between 1998 and 2005.
Britain’s Chrissie Wellington won Kona in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011 during an unbelievable full-distance career which ended with a perfect 13-0 record.
Moving forward to very recent times and Aussie star Mirinda Carfrae won three times in 2010, 2013 and 2014 before she was usurped by another Swiss idol in the form of Ryf. ‘The Angry Bird’ claimed titles in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 before Germany’s Anne Haug took the most recent Kona race in 2019. Ryf would then return to the summit by winning her fifth title at the delayed 2021 running in St George in May 2022.
On the men’s side, the aforementioned Frodeno is the current PRO king of Kona – that success in 2019 was his third, while fellow Germans Patrick Lange (twice) and Sebastian Kienle (once) are also recent champions.
Craig ‘Crowie’ Alexander wrote his name into Kona folklore by conquering the ‘Big Island’ three times between 2008 and 2011, while Aussie Chris McCormack prevailed in 2007 and 2010.
Further back in history came an incredible era dominated by two triathlon greats in the shape of Dave Scott and Mark Allen. Both men would claim six IRONMAN World Championship titles, but they are also remembered for their epic battle in 1989.
The pair ran pretty much side by side for eight hours before Allen finally dug deepest to claim his first victory over Scott in Hawaii. It was an epic race – and one which will see both men forever linked by ‘The Iron War’.
The current men’s champion as we count down towards Kona is of course Blummenfelt, courtesy of that epic success at St George in May.
Recent winners of the IRONMAN World Championship are as follows:
- 2010: Mirinda Carfrae (AUS)
- 2011: Chrissie Wellington (GBR)
- 2012: Leanda Cave (GBR)
- 2013: Mirinda Carfrae (AUS)
- 2014: Mirinda Carfrae (AUS)
- 2015: Daniela Ryf (SUI)
- 2016: Daniela Ryf (SUI)
- 2017: Daniela Ryf (SUI)
- 2018: Daniela Ryf (SUI)
- 2019: Anne Haug (GER)
- 2021: Daniela Ryf (SUI) **
- 2010: Chris McCormack (AUS)
- 2011: Craig Alexander (AUS)
- 2012: Pete Jacobs (AUS)
- 2013: Frederik Van Lierde (BEL)
- 2014: Sebastian Kienle (GER)
- 2015: Jan Frodeno (GER)
- 2016: Jan Frodeno (GER)
- 2017: Patrick Lange (GER)
- 2018: Patrick Lange (GER)
- 2019: Jan Frodeno (GER)
- 2021: Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) **
(** Held May 2022 in St George, Utah)
The prize pool for the IRONMAN World Championship currently stands at $750,000.