Daniela Bleymehl (GER) made a sensational return to racing following the birth of her second child with an emphatic victory at IRONMAN South Africa 2022.
The 2018 Challenge Roth champion, who had three IRONMAN wins on her record before this season, gave birth to daughter Alicia last July.
And she was to the fore throughout on Sunday following a shortened swim as she, Susie Cheetham (GBR) – another mum on the comeback trail – and Sarissa de Vries (NED) quickly moved clear of the field on the bike.
In the second half of the bike Bleymehl began to assert and her dominance became even more clear-cut on the run as first Cheetham and then de Vries succumbed to what had turned into hot conditions, in stark contrast to the start of the day.
Unfortunately that pair were unable to finish and Bleymehl stopped the clock in 8:22:35, fully 11 minutes ahead of Elena Illeditsch (GER) in second and Magda Nieuwoudt (RSA) in third.
Speaking to Paul Kaye shortly after crossing the finish line, she said: “It’s eight months since I had my second baby and this might sound a little dramatic but it was all I could think about in the last half hour.
“I was so much dying in the last hour, I can’t remember the last time I suffered so much. It will take a while to sink in!”
Swim – de Vries makes early splash
A delayed start (to 7am local time) on account of breezy weather and choppy waters saw the sea swim shortened right down to 700 metres (the age-group athletes didn’t get to swim at all).
It was still a challenge though in chilly conditions and de Vries was first out of the water in 9:22, which gave her a 19-second advantage over Jade Nicole.
And despite the fact that swim was under 1km it still split up the field, with 1:45 between first and 10th.
Bike – Trio take control
It didn’t take long for three riders to move clear – Bleymehl, de Vries and Cheetham putting distance between themselves and the rest.
The trio had an advantage of around six minutes after 100km and it was at that point that Bleymehl started to move ahead of the other two.
Gaps soon began to appear – at the 126.5km time check Bleymehl was 1:20 to the good ahead of de Vries, with virtually the same gap back to Cheetham in third.
Run – Bleymehl out on her own
By the time she left T2, Bleymehl’s advantage was around four minutes.
But as the marathon wore on – and the temperature rose significantly – her two closest rivals were starting to struggle badly. Cheetham was first to go as she first alternated between running and walking.
De Vries then joined her on the sidelines as she slumped to the side of the road to take on fluids and find some much-needed shade.
It all left Bleymehl able to enjoy what was an emotional win in complete isolation, a very different finale compared to the men’s race an hour earlier.
Elena Illeditsch was second over 11 minutes adrift, with Magda Nieuwoudt completing the podium, the first three all earning a Kona slot.
IRONMAN South Africa 2022 Results
Sunday April 3, 2022 – 700m / 180.2km / 42.2km
- 1. Daniela Bleymehl (GER) 8:22:35
- 2. Elena Illeditsch (GER) 8:34:00
- 3. Magda Nieuwoudt (RSA) 8:37:46
- 4. Natia van Heerden (RSA) 8:38:34
- 5. Jade Nicole (RSA) 8:41:02
- 6. Katharina Grohmann (GER) 8:44:43
- 7. Emma Bilham (SUI) 8:50:02
- 8. Margrit Elfers (GER) 8:56:10
- 9. Gabriele Obmann (AUT) 9:02:01
- 10. Mariella Sawyer (RSA) 9:13:16