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2022 Hawaii Ironman World Championships: The Women’s Contenders

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

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We’re in the final two weeks before Kona, and it’s time to have a look at the main contenders for the Kona races. The deep fields at the Ironman World Championship make it very hard to just look at a few athletes—almost everyone on the start line has a chance for a finish in the top 15 “money ranks” if things go right, and so many can achieve a “stretch goal” of the top 10, the podium, or maybe even a Kona title.

As with almost any pro race, there are some changes in the final days before the race. This year, Kat Matthews, second in St. George and one of the Kona 2022 favorites as well, is recovering after a driver hit her with a vehicle during one of her final training rides. Though she was one of the original picks, we’ve left her off this list.

First, take a look at our potential contenders for the Kona crown, then read on to see the credible podium threats. We’ve also got a play-by-play prediction of how things could shake out on October 6.

Looking for the men’s contenders? We’ll unveil Thorsten Radde’s top picks and expert analysis on the men’s race tomorrow! 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: Women’s Contenders For The Win

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Daniela Ryf

35 years old | Switzerland

Daniela Ryf, one of the womens top picks for Kona 2022
(Photo: Brad Kaminski)
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Winning Odds 40% (3 to 2)

Who she is: 

Daniela is a five-time Ironman World Champion (Kona 2015 to 2018 and St. George 2022) and also a five-time 70.3 World Champion. She has been dominating Ironman racing in the second half of the 2010s – she was able to win 18 of the 21 full-distance races she started. After disappointing races in Kona 2019 (stomach issues) and at 70.3 Worlds 2021, she was almost written off – with her St. George win in May she has shown that she is still one of the best female long-distance triathletes in the world.

Why she could win: 

In her previous wins at the Ironman World Championships she has shown that she definitely has what it takes to win: No real weakness and a bike leg that is unmatched when she is on form. Daniela holds the female Kona bike course record and she usually has both hands on the title when she starts her run. She hasn’t raced much since St. George, but wins at IM Switzerland in July and in her Collins Cup match in August have shown she continues to be on form.

Why she might not:

There are often things that don’t go according to plan in Kona, and even with the best winning odds of the field, Daniela is far from assured to claim her sixth Ironman World Championship title. In all her wins, her main weapon was the bike. There are at least three ways to change that: Lead after the swim and then work hard not to get caught on the bike (maybe Lucy Charles-Barclay), swim and bike with Daniela and then challenge her on the run (maybe Laura Philipp) or outrun Dani after not losing too much time on the bike (maybe Anne Haug). All of these approaches can be overcome when Daniela dominates the bike as she did in St. George and other races, so clearly the win only goes through Daniela.

RELATED: Recalled: Daniela Ryf’s Very First Kona Win

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Anne Haug

39 years old | Germany

Anne Haug, one of the women's top picks for Kona 2022
(Photo: Jan Hetfleisch/Getty Images)
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Winning Odds 20% (4 to 1)

Who she is: 

After a solid short-course career, Anne has raced well on the longer distances. Her run strength carried her to podiums and wins—including the Ironman World Championship title in 2019. Besides Daniela, Anne is the only previous female Kona winner on the startline of this year’s race, making her one of the pre-race favorites.

Why she could win: 

Anne’s Kona 2019 win was a good indication of her main weapon: She turned an eight-minute deficit to Lucy Charles into a six-minute winning margin. Except for her first Ironman in Frankfurt 2018, she always posted the fastest run split and also did so in St. George in May. It’s unlikely anyone will be able to challenge her on the marathon – it’s almost more interesting to see how fast she might run in Kona on a good day and if she could attack Mirinda Carfrae’s 2014 run course record.

Why she might not:

The challenge for Anne is to still be in contention when she puts on her running shoes. She was able to swim in the chase group in St. George but then quickly lost contact to Daniela and the other strong bikers, riding on her own for the first half of the bike. With a T2 deficit in St. George of fifteen minutes, it was very unlikely she could still win it if Daniela had a “normal” marathon of about 3 hours. She also seemed to take some time to find her bike legs in Roth when Fenella Langridge was able to stay in the lead into T2. The other athletes who are able to swim close to her are likely going to push the pace from the start in order to isolate Anne early in the bike. It will be very interesting to see how Anne is going to respond to these situations.

RELATED: Breakfast with Bob Kona 2019: Women’s Winner Anne Haug

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Laura Philipp

35 years old | Germany

Laura Philipp, one of the contenders for Kona 2022
(Photo: Joern Pollex/Getty Images for IRONMAN)
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Winning Odds 15% (6 to 1)

Who she is: 

Laura has had a great series of Ironman wins with fast times: 8:38 in Finland 2021, 8:35 in Austria 2021, and an Ironman-brand best time of 8:18 in Hamburg 2022. The only Ironman race she hasn’t won was her Kona debut in 2019, when she finished in fourth place after being forced to take a break from injury.

RELATED: How Laura Philipp Set A New Ironman Record

Why she could win: 

Laura has been working hard to improve her swim, maybe the only weakness in her arsenal. While she had to work for the first half of the bike in Kona 2019 to ride herself up to the bigger chase group after losing five minutes to Anne and Daniela in the swim, she was able to swim with Daniela at 70.3 Dubai in March 2022 and then outrun her. Her bike and run are very close to the level of the strongest women such as Daniela or Anne – it’s hard to tell as we haven’t seen a direct comparison in recent years. If Laura manages to stay closer to the other contenders in the swim, the others will have to do something special on the bike to drop her – will anyone be able to do that other than Daniela on a good day? And if anyone might be able to challenge Anne on the run, it’s Laura.

Why she might not:

But first Laura has to reach T1 in a good position. At the 2022 PTO Canadian Open in Edmonton she lost more than three minutes in the 2k swim, possibly an indication that it’s harder for her to swim well in more crowded fields – and Kona is probably going to be the most crowded swim of the year for the women. If she’s a bit further behind after the swim than she’d like to, she’s going to have to ride a bit harder out of T1 to get to the chase group, and she might miss Daniela riding away. Does Laura then push on so she can win the race and also to put time into Anne, but then possibly not run as well? She will have to walk a tight line between taking extra risks to be able to win Kona – versus just “racing for position” where even a good overall race could see her finish in fourth place as in 2019.

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Lucy Charles-Barclay

29 years old | Great Britain

Lucy Charles-Barclay, one of the top women at kona
(Photo: World Triathlon)
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Winning Odds 10% (9 to 1)

Who she is: 

After a series of second places in Kona from 2017 to 2019, Lucy finally won her first big title in 2021 at 70.3 Worlds in St. George with a dominating performance, posting the best times in all three legs. For most of 2022, Lucy was on the injury list, and it wasn’t clear until after the PTO US Open in Dallas, three weeks before the race, that she’s feeling fit enough to tackle Kona.

Why she could win: 

It’s easy to predict that Lucy is going to lead the first half of the race – her swim strength is still unmatched and unless technical issues such as an empty battery (as in Dallas) slow her down on the bike, she is also riding well enough that the others will have to work to ride up to her. Lucy has also been running well in the two races after her injury, she was able to outsplit Emma Pallant-Browne in Samorin over an 18k run and lost only 20 seconds to Kat Matthews in Dallas. It remains to be seen how well she can run a full marathon but she definitely seems capable of a sub-3 marathon in Kona, and only very few athletes should be able to put more than a few minutes into her on the run – and they need to be close enough to her in T2.

Why she might not:

There are still a lot of unknowns about Lucy racing in Kona after her injury. Did she have enough time to properly build for a full Ironman race? She’s coming off three second places in Kona in a row, and to finally win there she probably needs to race a bit stronger than before. In Kona 2019, she was able to beat back Sarah Crowley’s attack on the run, but will she be able to do that for a stronger runner such as Anne? Or will she be able to properly distance them not only in T1 but also in T2? She will have to race hard from the start, and we won’t see until seven or eight hours into the race if that’s been enough to move up a place in 2022.

RELATED: Lucy Charles-Barclay is Rewriting the Rules of Ironman Racing

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2022 Hawaii Ironman World Championships Women’s Podium Contenders

Skye Moench

34 years old | USA

Skye Moench, one of the top Kona 2022 women
(Photo: Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images )
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Who she is: 

With Ironman wins Chattanooga 2021 and Des Moines 2022, Skye has established herself as one of the top US women. She was fourth in St. George and the top female US finisher.

Why she could podium: 

St. George has shown how Skye can place well even in the best fields. A solid swim and bike saw her start the run in a good position, and a solid 3:04 marathon allowed her to finish in a respectable fourth place. To finish on the podium, she only needs some small improvements: After a good swim, she could be one of those pushing the pace in the chase group, possibly isolating Anne Haug or making it harder for Laura Philipp to ride up to the chase group. If she can start the run a bit closer to the front than 15 minutes in St. George, a sub-three-hour marathon would see her in the mix for a podium finish.

Why she might not:

It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see Skye finish in the top five in Kona, even with the field a fair bit stronger and deeper than in St. George. But to contend for a podium finish she will have to run close to her marathon PR (2:56 in Tulsa 2021) in much harder conditions – after helping to whittle down the number of podium contenders on the bike as well. Will she be able to lift her long-distance game and become the first U.S. woman on the Kona podium since Heather Jackson in 2016? That’s why we race!

RELATED: How Skye Moench Crushed Ironman Chattanooga Only Eight Days After 70.3 Worlds 

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Sarah Crowley

39 years old | Australia

Sarah Crowley, one of the top women for Kona 2022
(Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
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Who she is:

Sarah is one of the most consistent Kona athletes in recent years: She was third in 2017 and 2019 and is always racing for the win.

Why she could podium:

Sarah is always swimming strong and will likely start the bike close near Daniela. When Daniela decides to take off on the bike, Sarah is one of the few who is willing to take the risk of going with her. Similar to Tim O’Donnell’s second place in the men’s race in 2019, that may set her up for a podium finish if she can once more run under three hours as she did in Kona 2019.

Why she might not:

Sarah has been struggling with injuries in 2020 and 2021, and her results in the European summer last year were quite disappointing for her. She decided to skip St. George and instead train and race in Australia. She won both IM Australia and IM Cairns, but as these fields were mostly from Down Under, it’s hard to say if she’s ready for the demands of racing the world-class field in Kona. A 3:10 marathon as in her earlier IMs this year won’t be enough for a Kona podium.

Wildcard: Chelsea Sodaro

33 years old | USA

Chelsea Sodaro, one of the top women pros in Kona 2022
(Photo: Alexander Scheuber/Getty Images)
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Who she is:

Chelsea Sodaro has come from a running background into the sport. She gave birth to daughter Skylar in May 2021, was back to racing in August, and completed her first Ironman in July 2022, finishing second at IM Hamburg with an 8:36, the fastest debut by any US woman.

RELATED: With Kona in Sight, Chelsea Sodaro is Rediscovering Her Fire

Why she could podium:

Chelsea is a good swimmer (first out of the water in Hamburg) and is probably going to start the bike with the chase group around Daniela Ryf and Anne Haug. She has shown in Hamburg that she can ride well within herself: Laura Philipp’s bike pace was too fast for her and she let her ride away (letting her still come off the bike in second). She also ran well in Hamburg: She’d have liked to break three hours but struggled a bit in the second half of the run and had a good margin to third place. She and her coach Dan Plews will have learned some valuable lessons for her Kona race and nutrition strategy.

Why she might not:

The first race in Kona is always a venture into the unknown, and a lot of things have to go right for a good result. After a good swim, the bike pace in the chase group might be a bit too hot for her and she’ll be forced to make a difficult choice between possibly riding too hard (and then blowing up on the run) or letting many of her competitors ride away from her, some of them who could also run a sub-3 Kona marathon, like Chelsea. But often, a conservative approach on the bike and a solid marathon can be a good strategy for a top-10 result.

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.