It’s the end of 2022 – time to look back on some remarkable athletes, performances, and races that were the highlights of this year’s racing. We’re breaking down this review along several different categories across all distances and disciplines. Some categories are decided by numbers, while others are a bit more subjective. Take a look at the 20 fastest pros, most impressive performances, and singular events in 2022, as decided by the editors of Triathlete and triathlon pundit—and owner of Trirating.com—Thorsten Radde.Section divider
Long Course Performance of the Year: Male
Gustav Iden, Ironman World Championship (Kona)
Six-and-a-half hours into the highly expected return of the Ironman World Championships to Kona, it looked like there would be a big upset: Sam Laidlow had set a new bike course record (see below) and was still running well. St. George winner Kristian Blummenfelt and two-time 70.3 World Champion Gustav Iden were working side-by-side and had moved into second and third place – but they were still trailing Laidlow by more than three minutes. Somewhere around the turn in the Energy Lab, Iden made the decision to go all in for the win: Blummenfelt was no longer able to follow his pace, and the gap to Laidlow began to melt away like Hawaiian shaved ice in the Kona heat. Iden took the lead at mile 22 and won the race by two minutes in 7:40, breaking Jan Frodeno’s 2019 course record by almost eleven minutes. Is it possible to race Kona better than Iden?
Long Course Performance of the Year: Female
Taylor Knibb, Ironman 70.3 World Championship
On the female side, Taylor Knibb’s win at 70.3 Worlds in St. George was the most impressive performance. At the 2021 70.3 Worlds on the same course, Knibb was third; but then she had to deal with a run injury over the 2022 summer. Her return to racing was in September at the PTO US.. Open where she was able to build a seven-minute gap on the bike but then lost eight minutes on the run to Ashleigh Gentle (see below) to finish second.
In St. George, Knibb’s first two legs were just as amazing as in Dallas: Just a few seconds behind Lucy Charles-Barclay in the swim, followed by the best bike leg by more than six minutes – in T2 she was almost seven minutes ahead of her chasers. Knibb then showed that she had used the six weeks between Dallas and St. George well: A solid sixth-best run meant her win was never in doubt. In the end, she cruised to her first big title, winning by more than five-and-a-half minutes.
Another very impressive result worth noting was Laura Philipp‘s race at IM Hamburg on June 5 when she narrowly missed Chrissie Wellington’s record time from Roth 2011 by just 7 seconds.Section divider
Long-Course Pro of the Year: Male
The “Pro of the Year” is intended for the pros who have been showing great results across the whole season in their chosen distance. This is what the ranking systems by the PTO (long course) and World Triathlon (short course) have been designed to reward. The number-one ranked male pro in the PTO Rankings is Kristian Blummenfelt.
After winning the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2021, Blummenfelt also had a great Ironman debut in Cozumel. This season, he was consistently great in all his long-course starts: He won the St. George World Championships in May followed by the successful sub-7 project, was second at the PTO Canadian Open, then won his match at the Collins Cup. In October, he was third in Kona – a great result for almost anyone else, but a disappointment to him which he used as extra motivation for 70.3 Worlds just three weeks later, winning his next World title.
Blummenfelt is chasing two more big goals: A race against Jan Frodeno and another Olympic Gold medal in Paris 2024. Will he focus on one distance for the 2023 season?
Long Course Pro of the Year: Female
On the women’s side, the number-one PTO ranked athlete is Anne Haug. Haug was the most consistent long-course athlete this year – she was the only female on both Ironman World Championship podiums this year. In addition, she won Challenge Roth with a super-fast 8:22 finish, including a 2:46 marathon. For Haug, consistency was the name of the game.
But even Haug herself wasn’t 100% satisfied with her results in the big races – in both World Championship races she struggled with her energy levels in the second half of the run. If she can get a better handle on that, there’s no reason why she shouldn’t win more big races in 2023.Section divider
Short Course Performance of the Year: Female
Georgia Taylor-Browne, Super League Tri NEOM
Before the final Super League event in Neom, Georgia Taylor-Browne was in a dead heat with Taylor Spivey – whoever would be ahead in the last race would also capture the series title. Taylor-Browne was able to pull away from Spivey with a tactical run, but she continued to race hard to also take the lead from Sophie Caldwell, securing the season title for her team, the Scorpions. It’s tough to come up clutch in a single (very fast) race, but Taylor-Browne raced above her years by taking both the individual and series title in one fell swoop.
Short Course Performance of the year: Male
Hayden Wilde, Super League Tri London
There was a lot of discussion at the Commonwealth Games when Hayden Wilde received a penalty relegating him to second place behind Tokyo Silver medalist Alex Yee. For Wilde, this was extra motivation to beat Yee on home turf at the Super League race in London, setting himself up for season-long success and eventual overall win in the Super League Series. Wilde showed with this result that sometimes it’s not just about the finish, but it’s about bouncing back and launching forward.Section divider
Short Course Pro of the Year: Female
On the women’s side, the math before the Grand Finale wasn’t quite as complicated between Tokyo gold medal winner Flora Duffy and silver medalist Georgia Taylor-Browne: Whoever finished first of these two would clinch the world title. At the start of the run, Taylor-Browne built a 30-meter lead but then Duffy showed her strongest running when it mattered the most. She bridged up to Taylor-Browne and then slowly ran away from her, eventually winning by just over a minute and securing her fourth World Triathlon title.
Short Course Pro of the Year: Male
Before this season, Leo Bergere was already one of the most consistent podium finishers in short-course racing. He was finally able to win his first World Triathlon Championship Series race at the WTCS Grand Finale in Abu Dhabi. Even though he was in third place in the rankings before the race, points leader Hayden Wilde ended up in sixth and Alex Yee in fourth place, so it was just enough to jump ahead of them and to clinch the overall season’s title. For anyone who didn’t recognize Bergere’s name before, they will now.Section divider
Biggest Upset: Male
Collin Chartier, PTO Dallas
The PTO U.S. Open had one of the strongest long-distance fields of the 2022 season. Early in the race, it was already a surprise to see Chartier in the first chase group, but there were a number of superb runners ahead or just behind him. Even with a win at IM Mont Tremblant, a top-10 finish in Dallas would already be his biggest paycheck of the year – would he be satisfied with that? A couple of lead changes out of T2 grabbed everyone’s attention, and it took some time to identify Chartier as the fastest runner at the front of the race. He was able to take the lead from Sam Long in the fourth of five run loops and had enough of a gap in the final kilometer to celebrate his big win.
RELATED: Remember the Name: Collin Chartier
Biggest Upset: Female
Chelsea Sodaro, Ironman World Championship (Kona)
When Chelsea Sodaro started her first Ironman World Championship, she had only competed in one full-distance race before: A solid second place at IM Hamburg, but almost 20 minutes behind Laura Philipp. If at all, she was mentioned as a dark horse for a podium finish, and no one really expected the first U.S. win since Tim DeBoom in 2002 or Paula Newby-Fraser in 1996. Sodaro started the run in fourth place, but all eyes were on previous podium finishers. When she started to walk the aid stations to cool down, it seemed likely that she’d fall back soon. But the opposite happened: Taking extra time in the aid stations allowed her to run even faster between them; she took the lead after eight miles and never looked back, posting an impressive 2:51:44 marathon, the fastest of the day.Section divider
Breakthrough Season: Female
After a DNF at her second Olympic Games in Tokyo 2021, Gentle decided to move up in distance. She started her 2022 season with a dominating win at Clash Miami (best swim, bike, and run). A second place at 70.3 Elsinore and a win at 70.3 Andorra were just “stepping stones” to her big results on the 100k distance: In July, she ran down Paula Findlay at the PTO Canadian Open, then she won her Collins Cup match against long-course heavy hitters Laura Philipp and Chelsea Sodaro. At the PTO U.S. Open in Dallas, she delivered a master class on the run (see below) to grab her second PTO tour win. She closed 2022 with a highlight of a different kind: She got married to long-time boyfriend Josh Amberger.
Breakthrough Season: Male
In the “COVID Seasons” 2020 and 2021, Ditlev has made a name for himself on the half distance; in 2022, he also became a big factor on the full distance. In his first Ironman at IM Texas, he lost a sprint finish against Ben Hoffman. At Challenge Roth, he quickly bridged up to the lead group with Jan Frodeno on the bike, then was the best runner of the front group and missed Jan’s course record by only nine seconds. In Kona, he finished in eighth place despite a penalty on the bike, was third place at 70.3 Worlds, and then closed his 2022 season with a win at IM Cozumel, his fourth sub-8 in four full-distance races.Section divider
Race of the Year: Male
Ironman 70.3 Oceanside
This category looks at races with the smallest time gaps between the top finishers. For the men, 70.3 California in Oceanside had only 55 seconds or 0.4% between the top-four finishers, and there were a couple of position changes in the final kilometer: First, long-time race leader Alistair Brownlee was overtaken by a flying Jackson Laundry, then Lionel Sanders and Rudy Von Berg sprinted by. The gap might have been even closer if Brownlee had seen them coming, all he was able to do was shake his head after being relegated to fourth place in this early season barnstormer.
Race of the Year: Female
The most competitive women’s race was Clash Daytona. Race leader Angela Olmo was competing in her first race since the Tokyo Games and her first race longer than Olympic distance. She ran well enough to extend her lead over Sara Perez, but the strong runners Julie Derron and Jackie Hering were getting closer. In the end, the front positions didn’t change in the last 20 minutes of the race, but everyone was just getting closer to each other. At the finish line the top four were within just over two minutes (or 1.3%).Section divider
Swim of the Year: Female
Lucy Charles-Barclay & Lotte Wilms, Ironman 70.3 Worlds
There were only a few wire-to-wire wins in women’s 2022 races, and they mostly were in smaller races with not very deep fields. Therefore, I’m picking the “most interesting” swim for this category. From the start of 70.3 Worlds in St. George, Lotte Wilms was able to stay with Lucy Charles-Barclay and even attacked Charles-Barclay in the second half of the swim leg. But Charles-Barclay refused to back down, had the better swim exit and crossed the timing mat less than a second ahead of Wilms. As such, Charles-Barclay was able to keep her “unbeaten in the swim” status for races longer than Olympic distance.
Swim of the Year: Male
Lukasz Wojt, Ironman Austria
There were not too many 2022 races where the swim leader was able to build a meaningful gap in the swim that had a big impact on how the race developed. One exception was Lukasz Wojt at IM Austria: In T1 he led by more than five minutes, and he also posted the fastest bike, starting the run with a lead of almost eleven minutes. Alas, he was caught at 25k and finished third.
Another athlete with a strong swim-bike combo in 2022 was Andrew Horsfall-Turner at IM Wales—he was also five minutes ahead in T1. With the second-fastest bike he still had a lead of more than four minutes in T2, but he was caught 18k into the run, finishing in fifth place.Section divider
Bike of the Year: Male
Sam Laidlow, Ironman World Championship (Kona)
At the IM World Championships in May in St. George, Sam Laidlow had the second-fastest bike split, just a few seconds behind Cam Wurf. Then, Laidlow and Wurf also posted the two fastest bike legs in Kona—Wurf finished three seconds quicker than the bike record he posted in 2018.
And Laidlow? His Kona bike split was an amazing four-and-a-half minutes quicker than Wurf’s, setting a new bike course record and building a six-minute lead over the Norwegians and Max Neumann. He also ran his best marathon to date, and it took a superb run by Gustav Iden to catch him at mile 22 for the win.
Bike of the Year: Female
Daniela Ryf, Ironman World Championship (St. George)
After Daniela Ryf’s disappointing results in Kona 2019 and at 70.3 Worlds 2021, she was almost written off before IM Worlds in St. George. Boy, did she show she can still perform!
She had her typical swim with a few of her competitors but then dropped most of them right after T1. Katrina Matthews was the last to stay with her, but after 45 miles she also had to let Ryf ride away. Ryf put almost seven minutes into Matthews and was all but assured of the win in T2. Her emotional reaction when she crossed the finish line showed how much her fifth Ironman World title meant to her.Section divider
Run of the Year: Female
Ashleigh Gentle, PTO U.S. Open
At the PTO U.S. Open, Ashleigh Gentle was also more than seven minutes behind the lead at the start of the run – but she only had 18k to make up the time to Taylor Knibb. Slowly, Gentle decreased the gap and increased the pressure on Knibb. When Knibb wasn’t able to hold her pace in the Dallas heat, Gentle caught her just two miles before the finish line, posting the fastest run split—more than six minutes quicker than anyone else in the top 10.
Run of the Year: Male
Patrick Lange, Ironman Israel
For most of the 2010s, top Ironman marathon times were in the low 2:40s—sub-2:40s were very rare. Recently, that standard has shifted towards 2:35, and sub-2:40 runs were required to win both of this year’s Ironman World Championship races in St. George and in Kona. At the end of 2022, a battle at IM Israel between four great runners lowered the bar even further. After being more than seven minutes behind in T2, Patrick Lange came out on top; he was pushed to a 2:30:31 marathon to win the race – on what was reportedly an accurate and not very easy course. It seems that it won’t be too long before are we going to see the first sub-2:30 as part of a full-distance triathlon.