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2022 Hawaii Ironman World Championships: The Men’s Contenders

Our up-to-date breakdown of the top contenders for the podium at this year’s Hawaii Ironman World Championships men’s event.

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For most Ironman races during the year, there are only a few obvious contenders for the win. For Kona, at least half of the men’s field looks for a podium finish and the biggest challenge is to manage the sheer volume of contenders. As such, we’ve picked four main contenders for the win and five podium wildcards.

Looking for the women’s contenders? See Thorsten Radde’s top picks and expert analysis on the women’s pro race here, plus a play-by-play of how it could shake out on October 6. Check back to our Kona Central hub for all the latest coverage from the Big Island.

RELATED: How to Watch the 2022 Ironman World Championship Races

2022 Hawaii Ironman World Championships: Men’s Contenders For The Win

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Kristian Blummenfelt

28 years old | Norway

Kristian Blummenfelt will race in the Ironman world championship kona men's pro race
(Photo: Sean M. Haffey/Getty for IRONMAN)
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Winning Odds 30% (2 to 1)

Who he is: 

Blummenfelt has been able to build an amazing title collection in 2021 and 2022: Olympic gold medal in Tokyo, World Triathlon champion, and winner of the 2021 Ironman World Championship in St. George.

Why he could win: 

The “quick pick” for the favorite is the most recent winner. Given how easy Blummenfelt made it look in St. George, there is no reason why he shouldn’t defend his title—even if he’s never raced in Kona before. If you can run a 2:38 marathon, more than four minutes quicker than the next best run split, then you have a lot of options. His ideal scenario is probably to swim a bit better than in St. George, maybe even with a slightly larger front group in Kona – but he should also be fine as long as he is still able to ride with the chase group. In St. George he was “in between” after the swim and then allowed himself to be caught by the chasers around Cameron Wurf. As long as he can start the run within six to eight minutes to the leaders, he is still in the position to defend his title—after all he was more than nine minutes quicker than anyone in the St. George front group.

Why he might not: 

Even with his run capabilities, there is some pressure on him to ride well: With Gustav Iden and Patrick Lange, the Kona field has at least two athletes who could be as fast or maybe even quicker than in the marathon. At the PTO Canadian Open, Blummenfelt struggled with cramps in the middle of the run, so he’s not 100% invincible and might want to start the run with a slight lead to Iden and Lange. But knowing Blummenfelt, he is probably confident enough to trust his run to be the best in the field.

RELATED: Breakfast with Bob: Kristian Blummenfelt

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Magnus Ditlev

24 years old | Denmark

Magnus Ditlev will race the Ironman world championship kona men's pro race
(Photo: Lars Pamler / Challenge Roth)
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Winning Odds 15% (5 to 1)

Who he is: 

At 24 years of age, Ditlev is another young Kona rookie (Blummenfelt is 28 and Iden is 27 years old) among the favorites for the Kona 2022 title. He has raced the full iron-distance twice, finishing second at IM Texas in a sprint duel with Ben Hoffman after losing time late in the bike with a flat, and a win at Challenge Roth.

Why he could win: 

Roth was a blueprint of how Ditlev can win in Kona: He came out of the water 20 seconds behind Lange and almost two minutes behind the front pack with Jan Frodeno. He then put in a huge surge to get rid of Lange and also to bridge up to Frodeno. That turned out to be the decisive move in this race – Frodeno had to drop out early in the run, and Lange wasn’t able to make up the 14 minutes he lost on the bike. Ditlev might use a similar tactic in Kona, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can make it to the front if he’s two minutes behind after the swim and if anyone is able and willing to follow him. As evidenced by his second place at the U.S. Open in Dallas, Ditlev is also able to run well in the heat. Could he be the fastest runner in the Kona front group, and how much time can the chasers afford to lose to him on the bike?

Why he might not: 

There are two issues for Ditlev in Kona: The Kona conditions are less forgiving than a mild German summer morning, making such a surge much riskier. The other problem might be that Ditlev’s big effort may just help the other favorites—when they are able to follow him, he just ends up dragging other contenders to the lead group. And while he ran well in Roth, he still lost more than five minutes to Patrick, not all of which can be explained by his huge lead after Frodeno dropped out.

RELATED: How Magnus Ditlev Shocked Europe by Winning Challenge Roth

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Gustav Iden

27 years old | Norway

Gustav Iden will race the Ironman world championship kona men's pro race
(Photo: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images )
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Winning Odds 15% (5 to 1)

Who he is: 

When Iden won the 70.3 World Championships 2019 in Nice, it was a big surprise. He then successfully defended his 70.3 worlds title in St. George 2021, then ended the year with a win at Ironman Florida by running a 2:34 marathon. He wasn’t able to start in St. George in May so he has never raced an Ironman World Championship (let alone in Kona) before, but you absolutely have to include Iden in the short list of favorites.

Why he could win: 

In races longer than Olympic distance, Iden has always been able to make up any swim deficit and bridge up to the front group on the bike. He also consistently had the fastest run splits and was even able to outrun Blummenfelt at the PTO Canadian Open. If he starts the run within a minute to the other strong runners such as Blummenfelt or Lange, we’ll have an exciting run ahead of us.

Why he might not: 

The trickiest leg for Iden is going to be the swim. Even if he should swim better than in Florida, where he exited the water with Lionel Sanders, he’s expected to be about three minutes behind the lead group, probably slightly behind Blummenfelt and some other contenders. This could be their chance to try to ride to the front group without Iden who would then have to link up with the chasers such like Cam Wurf. This scenario might create a bigger gap than Iden can close on his own.

RELATED: How One Hat Seemingly Conquered The Tri World

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Patrick Lange

36 years old | Germany

Patrick Lange will race the Ironman world championship kona men's pro race
(Photo: Paul Phillips/Competitive Image)
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Winning Odds 10% (9 to 1)

Who he is: 

Lange is the best runner Kona has seen in recent years. In 2016, he set the run course record on his way to third place with the first official sub-2:40 marathon. His Kona wins in 2017 and 2018 were the result of again having the fastest marathon of the day after riding with the chase group, while the faster bike riders weren’t able to match his run speed.

Why he could win: 

In recent years, Lange has been able to improve his bike leg without sacrificing his run strength. After a DNF in Kona 2019, he came back with a convincing win at Tulsa 2021 where he was able to ride with the front group and then run a 2:36 marathon. On a good day, he can swim with the front group and then ride with them for most of the bike. If he can have the fastest Kona 2022 marathon, he should at least be able to finish on the podium. But, with other strong runners in the field, will it be enough to claim the title?

Why he might not: 

Lange wasn’t able to race in St. George in May as he broke his shoulder in a February bike crash. He still wasn’t 100% in Roth in July, and as a result of a lack of mobility in his shoulder, he wasn’t quite able to stay with the swim leaders. Towards the end, he struggled to run with his usual “flowing” run form when his upper body tightened up. He also had another COVID infection after the Collins Cup and lost some more training time. Will he race Kona 2022 in top shape?

RELATED: Who Is Ironman World Champion Patrick Lange?

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2022 Hawaii Ironman World Championships Men’s Podium Contenders

Lionel Sanders

34 years old | Canada

Lionel Sanders will race Ironman world championship kona men's pro race
(Photo: Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
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Things went well for Sanders in St. George: After losing four-and-a-half minutes in the swim, he was able to ride up to the chase group without burning too many matches. Except for Blummenfelt, he had the best run of that group and overtook Braden Currie for second place in the last mile. In Kona 2022, the chase group may be closer to the leaders in T2 than in St. George, but Sanders will be around other very strong runners. On a good day, another podium could be in the cards for Lionel.

RELATED: Lionel Sanders and the Art of the Sprint Finish

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Braden Currie

36 years old | New Zealand

Braden Currie will race at Ironman world championship kona men's pro race
(Photo: Brad Kaminski)
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Currie is likely to swim and bike in the front group, as in St. George. There, he would have needed a 2:42 for a win, while his best marathon on the Big Island is a 2:46 from 2019. A win would require another huge step forward for him, but Currie may very well finish on the podium.

RELATED: How Braden Currie (Nearly) Raced the Perfect IMWC St. George

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Joe Skipper

34 years old | Great Britain

Joe Skipper will race the Ironman world championship kona men's pro race
(Photo: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)
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After a few disappointing early Kona races, Skipper seems to have figured out how to race in the lava fields, finishing seventh in 2018 and sixth in 2019. Usually losing some time in the swim, he’s been biking well and has run a few amazing marathons, including 2:39s in Florida and Switzerland and a 2:37 in Wales this September. If he can come off the bike within five minutes of the podium ranks, a smart, strong run can see him in podium contention on the way back from the Energy Lab.

RELATED: Joe Skipper Wins 2019 Ironman Florida in Record Time

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Florian Angert

30 years old | Germany

Florian Angert will race the Ironman world championship kona men's pro race
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Angert has done well in St. George – maybe he could have finished a bit higher up if Ironman didn’t lose his run special needs bag. He is likely going to swim and bike at the front in Kona, but he would have to run a low-2:40 marathon to contend for the title or the podium. As a Kona rookie, just being in the mix for a long time will already be an important learning experience, and racing without too much pressure can sometimes lead to a nice surprise.

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Chris Leiferman

36 years old | USA

Chris Leiferman Ironman world championship kona men's pro race
(Photo: Hyoung Chang/Getty Images)
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In fourth place, Leiferman was the top U.S. finisher in St. George, improving on his 10th place in Kona back in 2019. Clearly, he has what it takes to place well in deep fields. Leiferman usually comes from behind on the run and is able to overtake athletes who swam and biked a bit too hard. But if he starts the marathon around 10th place—as in St. George—the sheer number of good runners ahead of him will make it extremely hard to work his way onto the podium.

RELATED: Video: Top American Chris Leiferman on Breakthrough World Champs Performance

Can’t get enough Ironman World Championship coverage? Visit our Kona Hub for news, analysis, history, photo galleries, and so much more – new stories added daily from our team on the ground at the Big Island.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thorsten Radde runs Trirating.com and is one of the top experts in the sport for analyzing triathlon finishes and results. His Kona Rating Report can be downloaded for free through his website.