Sprint finishes. So great to watch yet so hard to be in, especially if you wind up on the losing side. Last year, at IRONMAN 70.3 St George, Sam Long and Lionel Sanders had a finish for the ages, and the pair once again feature on this year’s list.
Perhaps surprisingly, some of the best finishes this year have come in long course racing.
As part of our 2022 Year in Review series to round off the season, we look back at some of the very best finishes of the year, the real nail-bitters, the edge of your seat dying metres that get your heart beating into overdrive. Enjoy!
If you wanted grit, drama and sea salt, IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside was the place to be at the start of April. Whilst Jackson Laundry of Canada powered to an unlikely victory, the battle for second came right down to the wire.
When you see Lionel Sanders run, you know he’s the type of athlete who would willingly drive himself into the ground to beat an opponent. Unfortunately for him, it turns out Rudy Von Berg is of a similar mindset, and the result of that match-up is a photo-finish for second and third.
This sprint finish couldn’t have come at a worse event, either, with the pair afforded barely a 10-metre run off over the line before they barrelled into the finish chute photographers.
Incredibly, Sanders kicked to take second by just hundredths of a second, an incredibly fine margin, especially when you consider this was after almost four hours of gruelling racing, with the Canadian really leaving it until the last moment.
These five hundredths of a second also proved to be worth $1,250, as Sanders took home $5,000 to Von Berg’s $3,750, reaffirming the old adage that “time is money”.
If any triathlete deserved a fairytale ending to a remarkable 12 months, it was Kristian Blummenfelt, but he just came up short at his home race in Bergen back in August.
Racing off the back of winning at the Collins Cup, the 2021 Olympic, World and IRONMAN Champion was the hot favourite to take the win at the inaugural Bergen World Triathlon Cup, but was pipped at the line by Frenchman Dorian Coninx.
Coninx, a tremendous athlete in his own right, surged to victory over the final 100 metres as the Norwegian duo of Blummenfelt and Vetle Thorn had to settle with a 2-3 showing in their hometown.
Knowing Blummenfelt, this rare loss is one he’ll want to put right in 2023, when the race returns to Bergen in the summer. In the meantime, he won’t be the only one to recognise that some of the biggest threats leading up to the 2024 Paris Olympics come from within the host country’s ranks.
Sodaro shows speed
Before she became the IRONMAN World Champion on THAT day in Kona, Chelsea Sodaro was busy kicking down one of the best runners in the sport to take home third at the first edition of the PTO Tour Canadian Open.
With Ashleigh Gentle of Australia and the Canadian favourite Paula Findlay way up the road, Sodaro locked in on Laura Philipp of Germany, who a few weeks previously had got the better of her at IRONMAN Hamburg. She didn’t look back.
Over the final half a kilometre, the American unleashed a kick that Sifan Hassan would be proud of, as she quickly passed Philip and left her trailing in her wake, as the 33-year-old from San Luis Obispo picked up her third podium of the year.
That run prowess should have been a sign of things to come, as just over three months later Sodaro set the world of long course triathlon alight with a dazzling run to take the world title in Kona, as she became the first American woman since Paula Newby-Fraser to be crowned the IRONMAN World Champion.
Hometown Heartbreak 2.0!
Okay, I know what you’re thinking, there’s only so many athletes who can race on the world stage in their home town, and even fewer who manage to lose out in a sprint finish in front of all their friends and family, but spare a thought for Diego Moya!
The Chilean, who as part of the Asics World Development Team has become a real force on the World Cup scene, looked like he might just take a fairytale win in front of his family and friends at the inaugural Vina Del Mar World Triathlon Cup.
After leading out of the swim, the 24-year-old, who was 30th at the Tokyo Olympics, pulled a large pack around the challenging bike course, before setting off first out of T2, to wild cheers and roars from the home crowd.
The Olympian seemed to be running in rhythm with the cheers, as every time he passed his adoring home crowd he’d surge, in an attempt to break the small group he found himself with on the run that included the likes of Jawad Abdemoula of Morocco and the Spaniard David Castro.
With a kilometre to go, he had left everyone but Castro in his wake, and continued to push ahead, as the home crowd crossed their fingers in anticipation for the big sprint finish that was bound to take place on the blue carpet.
As they entered the finishing straight, Castro made his move, and at first, Moya responded, but the Spaniard was too strong, as he pulled away in the final stage to take the tape, with Moya coming agonisingly close to the win in his hometown.
Next year, the city will host the Pan American Triathlon Championships, where Moya will hope he can represent the small seaside town he knows and loves on the continental stage and go one better than this season’s race.
Sanders slays in Samorin
Whilst Sam Laidlow could talk the talk but not walk the walk at the Collins Cup in August, Sam Long and Lionel Sanders made sure that the most talked about match up of the event still lived up to the hype with a thrilling finish.
After a week where tensions were running high, teams were walking on egg shells and a large scale fallout between two of the brightest young stars in long course triathlon seemed imminent, everyone was glued to their screens for the Laidlow vs Long vs Sanders battle.
Whilst Laidlow quickly crashed and burned out on the run, Long and Sanders had been locked together stroke-by-stroke, pedal-by-pedal and step-for-step until the very final part of the run leg, where Sanders made a decisive move to edge the American.
The two, who are both based in Arizona, have a history of battling it out since the start of Long’s rise to the top of the sport, with Sanders more often than not coming out on top, which he did once again in the Collins Cup to take home the match win for Team International.
With any luck, the Oro Valley boys will both be back to battling in out for the win in 2023, with Long heading into the off-season having turned the tables with a year-ending victory at IRONMAN 70.3 Indian Wells.