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Laura Philipp on THAT Kona drafting penalty and the devastating impact it had on her

German star is still coming to terms with controversial ruling

News Director
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Even a year on, Laura Philipp‘s five-minute drafting penalty in Kona in 2022 clearly still rankles with her ahead of this week’s IRONMAN World Championship on the Big Island.

The German star was in a great position – and said she led her group for much of the early part of the bike – only to then be hit with what was her first ever penalty.

She wasn’t the only one to be given a sanction – Lisa Norden and Sarah Crowley were others – and though she battled back to take fourth place, eight minutes off the podium, it clearly felt like an opportunity had been denied.

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‘Still tough to handle’ – Laura Philipp

Speaking on ‘Breakfast With Bob’, which is embedded below, she said: “First of all, it was my first ever penalty, so I had no experience with knowing how the impact will be on my mental side and how I will handle the situation.

“The toughest part for me was that I didn’t understand what I got the penalty for, and I still don’t 100% know. So that’s something that’s really upsetting because you want to learn from doing a mistake. And until now, I don’t feel like I did a mistake. So, yeah, that’s still tough to handle.

“And it definitely took me a very long time until I could actually get over it after the race. But of course, in the race, it’s definitely a key moment how you handle a situation like this. Something I did not prepare for. It was not something I imagined would happen.

“I felt in a really good place in the race. I was actually leading that group for, I think, nearly the first hour. So it felt extra hard to get a penalty when you felt like you’ve done most of the work.

I stood there and to be honest I did cry because I was so desperate, because I knew five minutes is, long, long time.

“I saw all the girls passing me. So I knew I’m now very far behind. So that was definitely hard. All the girls you work so hard to get away from, and here they go by.”

Mental challenge

Try as she might to get back in contention, Laura says that she knew her podium hopes had suffered a huge blow.

“From that moment on, it was very lonely for me. I tried to use it as ‘now I really need to chase hard and catch as many as I can’, so I tried not to give up. But of course, I knew with this kind of level we have on the female side, it’s not possible to win a race when you get a penalty. And when you’re taken out of the race scenario like this, the swim deficit was too big to allow myself to have a five-minute penalty.

“So I’m not in the position to still be in a good place to fight for the podium, which was my goal. So that was definitely hard to handle, to let that go in a way because I knew it’s nearly impossible.

“And I definitely underestimated the impact this had on me. Mentally, it was very hard when the race got tough, also physically, to find that extra gear.”

Time for change

“And, yeah, I think after that race, I was just empty, also emotionally. At first I thought, I will never, ever do an IRONMAN again.”

Laura Philipp bike 2023 photo credit IRONMAN South Africa
[Photo credit: IRONMAN South Africa]

After three wins this year, Philipp is again among the main contenders in what’s an even more stacked field for this Saturday’s showdown.

But she feels the rules currently lag behind the way the sport has developed in recent years, a point she also made after the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship – when there were again a number of penalties, though not against her.

She called then for the 12-metre drafting rule to be increased to 20 metres and also for RaceRanger technology to be introduced after its successful implementation at PTO events – and others – this year.

Heading into Kona, she added: “I feel like the professional athletes develop a bit faster than the competition rules, and we need to adapt and find better solutions. So that’s interesting to see how it will be this year. I think the field is even better. And of course, I now have this also in my mind to be extra careful with not doing anything wrong on the bike. So I don’t get a penalty.”

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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