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Taylor Knibb talks Kona magic and a day of challenges following IRONMAN debut in Kona

Taylor Knibb was exceptional on her IRONMAN debut at the 2023 IRONMAN World Championship in Kona.

Staff Reporter
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Is there anything that Taylor Knibb cannot do? On Saturday, the two-time IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion went toe-to-toe with the best women in the sport and finished fourth at the IRONMAN World Championship in her debut over the distance.

Racing an Ironman for the first time in her life, up against the some of the best to ever do it and the typically challenging Kona climate, the American star smashed her first full-distance event and just missed out an the podium.

In the aftermath of the race, the Olympic medalist revealed that she now fully understood the allure of the Big Island of Hawaii, adding that the sight of the finish line down Ali’i Drive was something she was seriously ready for after a tough marathon.

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Overcoming the odds

Despite never having raced the distance before and also having to serve a penalty for unintentional littering, Knibb played a large part in the swim and the bike, putting some serious pressure on eventual winner Lucy Charles-Barclay.

Taylor Knibb IRONMAN World Championship Kona 2023 Bike Leg
American triathlete Taylor Knibb during the bike leg of the 2023 IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii (Getty Images for IRONMAN).

“This is a very special race and I don’t think I fully understood that until I got here,” said Knibb.

Being out on course, it’s a very special race and I now understand why it is so important to the triathlon community.

“To be honest, I couldn’t have any expectations coming in, because there was so much unknown, which is different, because a lot of times at races you do have expectations.

“But, when you’re racing phenomenal athletes and you have a place with unpredictable conditions, I didn’t even know if I was ready for this and I think that showed in the last 4km of the run.” 

Knibb on Kona challenges

Overcoming challenges was the theme of the day for Knibb, with the American seemingly welcoming the uncertainty that a penalty and the marathon distance brought about, and expressing gratitude for the obstacles she faced after the race.

Taylor Knibb IRONMAN World Championship Kona 2023 T2
American triathlete Taylor Knibb comes through T2 at the 2023 IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii (Getty Images for IRONMAN).

“I think everybody had challenges out there and I was fed a few, which I was grateful for because then it was a case of ‘okay, how do I deal with that’. 

“I was so grateful to be there when I got to Ali’i Drive. I was so grateful to just lie down, I’m not sure if I enjoyed it, but I was just ready to get to the finish line.” 

After a stunning season, which has seen her win the PTO Tour US Open on home soil, defend her IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship title, qualify for the Olympics and finish fourth in Kona, Knibb is undoubtedly one of the most versatile triathletes in the world.

Having caught the Kona bug, the question now is will she be back in 2025?

Tomos Land
Written by
Tomos Land
Tomos Land is a triathlon & running journalist whose expertise lies in the professional world of short course & long distance triathlon, though he also boasts an extensive knowledge of ultra-running.
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