IRONMAN South Africa 2021: Preview, start time, watch live!

John Levison previews IRONMAN South Africa, which heads up a superb Sunday of elite racing.

Chief Correspondent
Last updated -

This is our preview of IRONMAN South Africa 2021 – you can read our reports to find out how Maurice Clavel won for the PRO men and Ruth Astle claimed the PRO Women’s race.

Having already previewed IRONMAN Cozumel in Mexico, we now turn our attentions to another full-distance professional race from the M-Dot umbrella this Sunday – IRONMAN South Africa 2021.

With a bigger prize purse and live broadcast coverage, here’s our take on what to expect from the action at Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth, South Africa.


Start time and how to watch live

Kudos to the broadcast team at IRONMAN, who have been providing almost weekly coverage of races around the world over the second half of the 2021 season,

The IRONMAN African Championship this weekend will receive their full broadcast streaming coverage.

The PRO race will start at 0620 local time on Sunday November 21. That’s 0420 UK time / 0520 CET / 2320 Eastern (Saturday).

Full-distance events are always slightly more complex in terms of streaming, as the FB restrictions on video length mean that the broadcast is always in two parts, sometimes resulting in a frustrating handover in the middle.

For ease, we have embedded the videos into this article so you can watch the race without leaving TRI247:

Part 1

2021 IRONMAN African Championship Professional Race Part 1

***UPDATE: Due to weather in the area, our start time has changed. Professional Men start at 6:25am and professional women at 6:30am local time for a shortened swim of 1.9KM. Tune in for the last Facebook Watch race of the year as a strong pro field battles for the 2021 IRONMAN African Championship in spectacular Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa.

Posted by IRONMAN now on Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Part 2

2021 IRONMAN African Championship Professional Race Part 2

Back to the action in Part 2 of the 2021 IRONMAN African Championship– follow live as athletes are approaching the end of the bike and getting prepared to take on the marathon. Join us now to see who will be crowned champion.

Posted by IRONMAN now on Wednesday, 17 November 2021

Whether it’s on Facebook, through your Smart TV – or directly on this page – you’ll be able to watch the race live from wherever you are and whatever device you choose.

As always, the IRONMAN Tracker app on mobile devices is your essential addition if you want to check out the race data as it happens, alongside the broadcast and commentary.


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Home favourite and 2018 champion Kyle Buckingham will be wearing #1 this weekend. Born in Port Elizabeth, Buckingham turns 38 next week – a victory here would truly be an early birthday present to remember. Given the opposition, that’s going to be a tough challenge.

Kyle Buckingham wins IRONMAN South Africa 2018

Headline name in recognition and popularity terms has to be Sebastian Kienle. The German won Kona in 2014, the IRONMAN 70.3 World Champs in 2012 and 2013, and has won Challenge Roth and the IRONMAN European Championship three times in a truly stellar career. He’s been there and got the T-shirt in all regards.

Kienle recently started a two-year countdown towards his retirement at the end of 2023, but you have to think that he wouldn’t be making this trip unless he could perform strongly, in what has been far from his most successful year. Fingers crossed that his Achilles treats him well, as a Kienle finish-line interview is one never to be missed!

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - JULY 09: (EDITORS NOTE: This image was altered using a digital filter) Sebastian Kienle of Germany competes in the cycle leg of the race during Ironman European Championships on July 9, 2017 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. (Photo by Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images for Ironman)
Photo by Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images for Ironman

Like Buckingham, another athlete with previous course success is Nils Frommhold (GER). Winner in 2014, he was also second in both 2017 and 2019 and thus clearly comfortable in Eastern Cape Province. Frommhold also took second place behind an impressive Patrick Lange this year ar Challenge Roth. That form, combined with positive vibes from previous visits, could make him a podium contender.

Nils Frommhold en route to a 4:09:30 split (and race win) at Challenge Roth

Form proven veterans, we’ll finish by highlighting two youngsters.

First up, Rasmus Svenningsson (SWE), who at #14 is the top-ranked athlete based on the PTO Rankings. Aged 28, he’s already won IRONMAN Lake Placid and finished second at IRONMAN Austria this year. He was set to race in Sacramento before the weather had other ideas, so it looks as though his plans have changed.

Making Rasmus look old by comparison (!) is British-born Sam Laidlow (FRA) – 100% a name you’ll be following for the next decade or more. Still only 22, he clocked 8:05 for the iron-distance at 20 years of age (IM Barcelona), a few months after winning the Lakesman Triathlon in the UK. He also had a memorable battle at IRONMAN UK this year with Joe Skipper.

Expect him to feature at the front of the race from the start, as he is a very strong swimmer and is more than happy to race from the front on the bike too.

Sam Laidlow
Photo Credit: Oriol Batista

PRO Women

In truth, a surprisingly small start list for the women comprising of 11 athletes – and that’s if everyone arrives.

I don’t ‘know’, but I’m going to guess that what will be just two weeks after 15km of walk/run at IRONMAN Florida, Imogen Simmonds (SUI) is probably unlikely to be jumping straight back into another full-distance race and taking up her position on the start list.

One athlete who is – and fresh off the back of her biggest career success to date – is Ruth Astle. After a big win at IRONMAN Mallorca, the Brit says she’s bounced back well and is still motivated to race, so she will be doing just that again on Sunday after what was a relatively late entry.

Having been out to this race a couple of times myself before, the roads and road surfaces will certainly have a British feel – none of that super-smooth paving you find elsewhere, that’s for sure! A small field would suggest we’ll see few groups in the women’s race, and that would probably work well for Ruth, who put her biking strength to good use in Mallorca.

Astle raced frequently, and consistently well too, during her age-group career and so I’m pretty confident that five weeks between events will work well for her. British women have an extensive history of success at this race – could she even join Bella Bayliss, Chrissie Wellington, Jodie Cunnama and Lucy Charles-Barclay by taking the win? It’s certainly possible – and the confidence from one big win can only help you push on towards another.

Ruth Astle Outlaw Half Holkham 2021

Ruth is currently #33 in the PTO Rankings, and significant competition is likely to come from the #26, Manon Genet (FRA). The French athlete was an impressive second at Challenge Almere, the World Triathlon Long Distance Championships, finishing with a 2:58 marathon. The Brit would certainly like to start the run with a few minutes advantage over Manon…

Manon Genet / Pontevedra ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships 2019

You can click here to find the full start list.

Prize Money: What’s on the line?

With IRONMAN Regional Championship status, Sunday’s racing will offer a total prize purse of $100,000. That means an attractive top cheque of $15,000 for the race winners, with the remainder of the pot paid to the top-10 finishers.

There are also four qualification slots (two for the men, two for the women) to be earned for the 2022 IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. That will take place on October 6 (Women) and 8 (Men) next year.

From her victory at IRONMAN Mallorca last month, Kona qualification is already secured for Astle, so she will be racing free. No such freedoms for everyone else who has October 2022 at the back of their mind.

  1. $15,000
  2. $9,000
  3. $7,000
  4. $5,000
  5. $4,000
  6. $3,000
  7. $2,500
  8. $2,000
  9. $1,500
  10. $1,000

We have said it consistently, but it’s always worth a reminder (!) – there is a secondary prize source which athletes are racing for – the PTO ‘Race For The Rankings’ which will see a total of $2,000,000 paid out across the top 100-ranked athletes, male and female, at the conclusion of the 2021 season.

It is quite feasible with a strong performance for an athlete to move their PTO ranking sufficiently, meaning their improved payout could more than surpass the prize cheque paid on Sunday. Thus, there is a lot more than just that $100k race-specific purse to consider.

Race For The Rankings 2021 PTO prize purse
John Levison
Written by
John Levison
TRI247's Chief Correspondent, John has been involved in triathlon for well over 30 years, 15 of those writing on these pages, whilst he can also be found commentating for events across the UK.
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