A bizarre circumstance kicked off the Queen of Kona’s legendary career.
This article was originally published in the Sept/Oct 2012 issue of Inside Triathlon magazine.
The year was 1986. Paula Newby-Fraser was making only her second trip to the Big Island. In 1985, as a rookie, the young woman from Zimbabwe had finished an impressive third and become someone to watch.
But the women to beat were the Canadian identical twins, Sylviane and Patricia Puntous. In both 1983 and 1984 they had finished first and second with Sylviane winning both times. Newby-Fraser was in front of both of them off the bike in 1986, but eventually she was passed by one of the twins and assumed she was in second place.
But that’s when she started hearing rumblings from the sidelines. “Someone yelled to me that one of the twins had been disqualified for drafting,” remembers Newby- Fraser. “Supposedly Patricia had been told to stop during the marathon, that she had been disqualified, but refused. Since I didn’t know which twin was in front of me and which one was behind me, all I could do was keep running.”
Usually the athlete in first place is the one who gets to break the finisher’s tape. That is a given. So when Patricia came down Ali’i Drive, she had the honor of breaking the tape. She was then informed by race officials that she had been disqualified from the race.
When Newby-Fraser came to the line, the tape was once again in place. “I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on,” recalls Newby-Fraser, “but after hearing at least five times that Patricia had been disqualified, I wasn’t totally shocked to see the banner there.”
It was Newby-Fraser’s first Ironman World Championship title. “Before you actually win, your only thought is that, if you do happen to grab the title, that you’ll be totally content,” she says. “‘All I want to do is win it once and I’ll be happy.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. Once you win, you want to prove that it wasn’t a fluke.”