Rookie Chelsea Sodaro caused a huge shock as she claimed an impressive clear-cut victory at the IRONMAN World Championship as the sport’s biggest race returned to its spiritual home of Kona for the first time since 2019.
The 33-year-old, who had a baby last year and only made her IRONMAN debut in June, becomes the first American winner since Paula Newby-Fraser in 1996. The last female debutant winner at Kona was Britain’s Chrissie Wellington in 2007.
Sodaro, claiming a maiden IMWC crown for her BMC Pro Triathlon Team, was to the fore throughout but won the race by clocking a 2:51:45 marathon which saw her first surge past defending champion Daniela Ryf (SUI), who had led out of T2, and then Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR), who had performed superbly having missed a large part of the season through injury.
Anne Haug (GER), the winner in Hawaii three years ago, again demonstrated her run prowess as she came through the field but she was unable to overhaul Charles-Barclay and had to settle for third, with the Brit notching a fourth successive runner-up spot in Hawaii.
It was an historic day for the event – the first time the women’s race has taken place on a separate day to the men, who will compete on Saturday.
Swim – LCB shows the way
Charles-Barclay moved into the lead straight away and was never headed.
She quickly opened up a 20 metres advantage over Lauren Brandon (USA), who did all the work in the four-person chase group which also featured Rebecca Clarke (NZL), Pamella Oliveira (BRA) and Fenella Langridge (GBR). Brandon is a fine swimmer herself – twice exiting the water in Kona on the shoulder of Lucy – and so being on her feet was a great position for those chasers.
In the main pack three of the big favourites were locked together, defending champion Ryf swimming on the feet of Laura Philipp (GER), with Haug – who won the last time the race was held in Kona back in 2019 – just behind.
Choppy conditions and some swell meant that Charles-Barclay’s swim record time of 48:14 was never under threat but she’d opened up a 41 seconds lead over Brandon and co by the time she crossed the timing mat in 50:57.
The big news was arguably the fact that Haug / Philipp / Ryf all gave up nearly seven minutes in the water.
In the process they were also conceding three minutes to the likes of Hayley Chura (USA), Jocelyn McCauley (USA), Lisa Norden (SWE), Sodaro, Sarah Crowley (AUS) and Skye Moench (USA).
All-in-all, a great start to the day for Langridge, but not the desired opening for the five-time IRONMAN world champion Ryf.
Bike – Ryf powers through the field
Aided by a swift transition, it didn’t take Langridge long to bridge up to Charles-Barclay and the two Brits would then lead for virtually the whole of the bike leg.
As things settled down Sodaro, Moench and 2019 third Crowley were all part of the chasing group, but drama then hit in the shape of several drafting penalties.
Crowley was first into the penalty box but the biggest name to suffer was Germany’s Philipp who was said to be “in tears” as she saw her race chances take a huge hit thanks to a five-minute sanction.
All the while Charles-Barclay and Langridge swapped the lead but then both were overhauled around five miles before T2 by Ryf who had whittled away all of that seven-minutes deficit thanks to a clear fastest bike split of 4:36:11 in what were relatively benign conditions.
Ryf was first into T1, with LCB just 17 seconds behind and Langridge still smiling, despite losing close to a minute over the closing miles.
The depth of the field was reflected in how close they were bunched, with the top ten off the bike separated by only seven minutes. Following the leading trio back to the pier to start the marathon were Norden, Sodaro, Sara Svensk (SWE), Haug, Moench, McCauley and Daniela Bleymehl (GER). Norden was another who had served a five minute penalty out on the course.
It all meant it was set up perfectly for a thrilling finale – with even Philipp in 11th place still in contention for at least the podium at just over nine minutes off the lead.
Run – Sodaro stuns her rivals
The rising temperatures were always going to make the run a real test but that didn’t stop flying starts by Charles-Barclay and especially Sodaro.
LCB had made up 11 seconds on Ryf in T2 and she powered past the Swiss star early on the run.
But no one was moving faster than Sodaro, who first went past Ryf after four miles and then eased in front of Charles-Barclay going up Palani.
She was also showing real poise taking on fluids at the aid stations, belying her first-time IMWC Kona status.
Just before the halfway point in the marathon Sodaro had opened up an advantage of two minutes on Charles-Barclay.
Ominously it was Haug who had now moved into third at +4:13 while five-time winner Ryf was going in the opposite direction, now over six minutes adrift despite leading at T2.
But rather than wilt under the pressure, Sodaro rammed home her advantage – approaching the 20-miles point she had moved over five minutes clear of Charles-Barclay, with Haug a further minute back.
That pair would have an absorbing battle for the runner-up spot, with Charles-Barclay just holding on for yet another second place.
She was nearly eight minutes behind Sodaro who had crossed the line in 8:33:46.
And huge kudos to Philipp, who put her bike penalty behind her to take fourth, with Norden fifth.
There were no fewer than five Britons in the top 15 thanks to Langridge (sixth), Laura Siddall (10th), Susie Cheetham (11th) and Ruth Astle (14th).
IRONMAN World Championship 2022 Results
Thursday October 6, 2022 – Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
- 1. Chelsea Sodaro (USA) – 8:33:46
- 2. Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) – 8:41:37
- 3. Anne Haug (GER) – 8:42:22
- 4. Laura Philipp (GER) – 8:50:31
- 5. Lisa Norden (SWE) – 8:54:43
- 6. Fenella Langridge (GBR) – 8:56:26
- 7. Sarah Crowley (AUS) – 9:01:58
- 8. Daniela Ryf (SUI) – 9:02:26
- 9. Skye Moench (USA) – 9:04:31
- 10. Laura Siddall (GBR) – 9:07:49
- 11. Susie Cheetham (GBR) – 9:11:03
- 12. Maja Stage-Nielsen (DEN) – 9:14:04
- 13. Haley Chura (USA) – 9:19:49
- 14. Ruth Astle (GBR) – 9:20:37
- 15. Gurutze Frades Larralde (ESP) – 9:20:58