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‘It was now or never’ – Daniela Ryf reflects on ‘best performance ever’

There was incredible mutual respect from two legends of the sport as the world's best full-distance time passed from one to the other.

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“After the perfect swim it was now or never,” said a delighted Daniela Ryf as she looked back at achieving her long-held ambition of setting a new world record time for the full distance.

Ahead of Challenge Roth the Swiss star – who has five IRONMAN World Championships and five 70.3 Worlds to her name – had said that in order to win the German showpiece, a new fastest time would be required.

She was up against a stellar field that included two-time Kona winner Anne Haug, the defending champion at Roth, reigning World Champion Chelsea Sodaro and Laura Philipp, who had come within seven seconds of Chrissie Wellington’s long-standing record at Hamburg 12 months previously.

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Perfect start

Daniela Ryf Chrissie Wellington Challenge Roth 2023
Daniela Ryf and Chrissie Wellington embrace after the finish line [Photo credit: Challenge Roth]

But none of that trio made the sort of start that Ryf did. She was on the feet of expected swim leader Fenella Langridge throughout and the two of them would exit the water virtually together.

Soon after Ryf would power clear on the bike and never look back, slashing a staggering 10 minutes from Wellington’s time of 8:18:13 set at Roth in 2011.

At the finish line after her third Roth success – from three attempts – she said: “It was my best performance ever, a perfect day.”

‘Chrissie was kind of my shadow’

Her season had been a little stop-start until recently, not helped by a virus, but a win on home roads at 70.3 Switzerland got things back on track and she added: “The last two weeks it’s gone well again so I was already confident.”

And after exiting the water just behind Langridge – but well clear of the rest – Ryf admitted: “I knew it would be a now or never moment. This record has been there for so long, I just wanted to go for it.”

Wellington was on hand at the finish line to hand Ryf her medal, though Daniela revealed she almost felt her presence out on the course, saying: “Chrissie was kind of my shadow. I was thinking ‘she’s catching me in my head’”

Both legendary athletes played tribute to each other afterwards and Wellington had said this to us beforehand: “If the record is broken, hopefully it’s indicative of the growing strength of the female athletes and if I played a small part in that, I will be very proud.”

Writing later on social media after Ryf’s incredible performance she added: “The record was never mine to keep. I treasured it, until the time came that it was broken (or rather, obliterated) by the greatest athlete the sport has ever seen.”

Chrissie Wellington 2023 photo credit: Challenge Roth
Lovely words from Chrissie Wellington [Photo credit: Challenge Roth]
Jonathan Turner
Written by
Jonathan Turner
Jonathan Turner is News Director for both TRI247 and RUN247, and is accustomed to big-name interviews, breaking news stories and providing unrivalled coverage for endurance sports.  

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