The 22 Tri News Stories That Made 2022
What a year! From thrilling throwdowns to shocking splits, there was no shortage of triathlon news to keep us talking.
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Full Season of “Normal” Racing Kicks off in Oceanside
It’s always hard to know what to expect at the first long-course race of the North American season – especially when it’s the kickoff to the first “normal” season after two years of pandemic restrictions and cancellations. With all that pent-up energy, Ironman 70.3 Oceanside in southern California delivered even more drama than usual, with a come-from-behind victory from Jackson Laundry, the coronation of Taylor Knibb, and a thrilling sprint finish between Rudy von Berg and Lionel Sanders. What we know now: it only got crazier from there.
WATCH: Want to relive all the action in Oceanside? Outside+ members can stream this race (plus many more) on demand on Outside Watch. Become a member today.
Clash Miami Carnage
Clash Miami was set to be a barn burner, with a potent combination of short-course racers and long-course specialists. Instead, it turned out to be a meltdown for many, with a DNF rate of more than 40% in the women’s field. While the men seemed to have learned from the women who went before them, there were still a handful of implosions and drop-outs in the 83-degree heat and over 70% humidity.
RELATED: Why Did So Many Pros DNF at Clash Miami?
First Non-Hawaii World Championship in St. George
It wasn’t Kona, but it was a world championship all the same. After two years of cancellations and postponements in Kona, Ironman moved the 2021 makeup race to St. George in May. Early grumblings that the non-Hawaii race wasn’t a “real” world championship were silenced when the deep, deep pro fields turned out and blazed a path through the newly-minted Land of Endurance. The victors: Kristian Blummenfelt, who threw down a staggering 7:49:16, and Daniela Ryf, who dominated with a 8:34:59.
History Made at Sub-7/Sub-8
What is the fastest ever Iron-distance? That distinction belongs to Kristian Blummenfelt and Kat Matthews – with an asterisk. The Sub7/Sub8 project, a carefully-designed test of human endurance, went off in June with one goal: to see how fast humans could cover 140.6 miles. But this was not your typical Iron-distance race. Instead, it was more of a science experiment, with drafting, pacers, specially-designed equipment and nutrition, and even a sag carrying a tank with chilled water to spray on runners. The result? 6:44:25 and 7:31:54, the fastest times ever recorded for men and women, respectively, at the distance. Plans for going even faster in the future are already in the works.
RELATED: Yes, Iron-Distance “Records” Were Broken, but Was Sub7/Sub8 a Success?
The Rise of New Racing Formats
Swim-bike-run got even more fun in 2022 with new racing formats. Want to race with friends? Try the age-group mixed relay. Want to go off-road without the risk of breaking your shoulder on a mountain bike? Check out gravel triathlon. There’s even dog triathlon now, where your furry friends can get in on the action (and yes, it’s exactly as adorable as you’d expect). Sign us up for them all.
Jan Frodeno’s Final Lap Thwarted by Injury
Olympic gold medalist and multi-time Ironman and 70.3 world champion Jan Frodeno was looking to retire after the 2022 season, when he could take one more stab at the Kona course after two years away due to the pandemic. But it just wasn’t his year. First, he was forced to pull out of the St. George world championship race in May due to an achilles tear; he then returned to racing too soon at Challenge Roth and suffered an emotional DNF on the run. Things looked promising for him to return to Kona, however – until he announced he was undergoing a series of emergency surgeries for a Morel-Levalée lesion, a rare complication from a bike crash. He’s said he’s in for 2023 – here’s hoping for better luck and a true victory lap.
RELATED: What Are Morel-Levalée Lesions? Understanding Jan Frodeno’s Injury
Paratriathlon Makes its Mixed Relay Debut
The mixed relay format that made its debut at the Tokyo Olympics may be seen at the Paralympics too. In March, athletes put on the first-ever para mixed relay event at the Americas Triathlon Cup, and it was a hit, to say the least. The test event was an exhibition designed to work out the logistics of a relay event involving athletes across multiple paratriathlon categories, from PTWC1 wheelchair athletes to PTVI visually impaired athletes. The goal is to have a world championship race by 2024, which is necessary to show a viable field for the Olympics in 2028. It’s a major sign of progress for the sport, which is still tempered by unequal pay and lack of opportunity, as two-time Paralympic gold medalist Allysa Seely shared earlier this year.
The Rise of the 100K PTO Distance
The PTO are keen to establish the 100K distance (that is, a 2-kilometer swim, 80-kilometer bike, and 18-kilometer run) in the psyche of tri fans and create must-watch triathlon, and this year, they may have accomplished just that. In addition to being a shorter, viewer-friendly format, the 100K distance brought in an interesting mix of short- and long-course triathletes who seemed to struggle equally at this in-between format. There were cramps, meltdowns, and surprise victories at just about every PTO race this year, leaving us to wonder: Is 100K the perfect triathlon distance?
WATCH: Outside+ members can watch the replay of the PTO races on Outside Watch – become a member today.
Lucy Charles-Barclay Injury, Comeback
Like Frodeno, Lucy Charles-Barclay had a year full of ups and downs – but her story has a much happier ending. Just a month before the Ironman World Championship race in St. George, the (then) three-time runner-up announced she had suffered a stress fracture of the hip and would have to withdraw from the race. She also had to withdraw from the Sub7/Sub8 Project, where she was much-hyped as a contender for the record. But after a period of hard rest and careful rehabilitation, Charles-Barclay quietly returned to racing by entering (and winning) the World Triathlon Long Course World Championships. She followed it up with a stellar performance in Kona to collect another second-place finish, plus a fourth-place finish a month later at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
RELATED: Anatomy of a Stress Fracture
Pros Pushing Equipment Rules
Technically, nobody broke the rules. But when it comes to Daniela Ryf and Gustav Iden the word “technically” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. For Ryf, it was the discovery that she had donned a banned wetsuit at Ironman Switzerland in July, which also led to the discovery that she wore the same wetsuit at the 2021 Collins Cup. The five-time Ironman world champion said she wasn’t aware that the Speedo Tri Elite suit was outlawed until informed by Ironman global director of rules and officiating Jimmy Riccitello after this year’s race.
Meanwhile, Gustav Iden was very aware of the rules, and found a loophole to exploit at his Ironman World Championship victory in Kona. Iden ran a new marathon record at the race while wearing a pair of prototype On running shoes with a chunky midsole (or stack height) in excess of 50mm. World Athletics rules stipulate that the stack height on shoes must be no more than 40mm for road running events; however, triathlon’s governing body admitted that it didn’t adhering to World Athletics standards – everyone just assumed they did. This will change in 2023, however – meaning the infamous shoes that were legal this year will not be in the next.
Women’s Tri Hits Threshold to Become NCAA Sport
40 was the magic number for women’s triathlon to become a NCAA sport, and with the addition of a women’s triathlon team at California State Polytechnic University-Humboldt in February, USA Triathlon announced it would begin the next step of making triathlon NCAA-official. There are still about two years remaining in the process – the sports still has to get approved by various committees and voted on by each of the collegiate divisions (among other obstacles) but officials are optimistic the hurdles will be cleared and the sport will be approved by 2024.
RELATED: Will NCAA Triathletes Cash in on NIL Deals?
XTERRA Takes World Championship Race to Italy
All eyes were on Trentino, Italy on October 1 as the XTERRA World Championship headed to an entirely new continent for the first time in 26 years. The race, which began its new format of rotating the world championship location each year, attracted one of the strongest elite fields in XTERRA history competing for the $100,000 prize purse. The race was all things XTERRA should be: muddy, cold, wet, miserable – and a lot of fun to watch. Arthur Serrieres and Solenne Billouin broke the tape in the men’s and women’s races, respectively, each one covered in mud and smiles.
Kona Returns With First Two-Day Format
After a two-year pandemic hiatus, the Ironman World Championships returned to Kona. The old location came with a new twist – instead of all athletes racing on the same day, the 2022 event employed a two-day format to accommodate the two-year backlog of athletes. Pro women raced with age-group women and some age-group men on Thursday, while pro men and the remaining age-group men raced on Saturday. The two-day format was popular with triathletes, but not so much with Kona residents, who were overwhelmed by two times the athletes and two times the road closures. In the weeks and days leading up to the race, the contentious relationship between athletes and locals was palpable, leading the local government to reconsider allowing the two-day format for the future.
RELATED: Commentary: If We Want to be Welcomed, We’ve Got to be Better Guests
Kat Matthews in Shocking Car-Bike Collision Days Before Ironman World Championship
You could hear a collective gasp in the tri world on September 25, when the news broke that Ironman World Championship favorite Kat Matthews was hospitalized after a driver steered his vehicle into the triathlete’s path while on a training ride. The collision, which took place during a pre-Kona training block with teammates in Texas, caused several injuries to Matthews, including fractures in her skull, vertebrae, and sternum. Instead of contending for the world championship title, Matthews spent the race on the sidelines in a full neck brace. She plans to return to racing when fully recovered.
RELATED:The Indefatigable Mind of Kat Matthews
Chelsea Sodaro Wins Kona
In the first-ever two-day Ironman World Championship, the professional women’s field stepped into the spotlight and owned it fully with a day of gutsy head-to-head racing. Chelsea Sodaro used a balanced swim/bike attack paired with a blistering run to write her own history as the first Kona rookie since Chrissie Wellington to win the Hawaii Ironman World Championship and the first American woman to do so in over a quarter of a century with a time of 8:33:46. Her victory was also widely celebrated for who joined her at the finish line: 18 month-old daughter Skylar. Sodaro is the first new mom to win Kona, and joined Natascha Badmann as the only mothers in race history to take the top podium step.
RELATED: Commentary: Give Women a Stage, They’ll Put on a Show
Course Records Fall like Dominoes at Men’s Kona Race
Historically, the Ironman World Championship race has favored wisdom and experience. It was believed that the way to crack the Kona code was to try, fail, and then try again on the brutal island conditions. All of this was proven wrong in 2022. In addition to Sodaro’s rookie victory, the men’s pro race was all about the first-timers, with the top four finishers – all of them rookies under 28 years old – shattered the previous course record by no less than six minutes. Even more impressive? It was only the second Ironman ever for the winner, Gustav Iden, who clocked a 7:40:24.
RELATED:Analysis: Forget What You Know About Racing Kona. It’s All Wrong.
Refs in the Spotlight
If there was a villain of the 2022 race season, it was “The Ref.” No, there wasn’t a singular ref people called out by name, only a general vague shadowy figure that everyone yelled about. First, it was “the ref” at Kona, who issued a controversial five-minute position penalty to Magnus Ditlev at a critical moment of the race. (In a post-race interview with Triathlete, Ditlev expressed his frustrations with the penalty, saying “I don’t believe it was the right call.”)
Weeks later, at the 70.3 World Championship race in St. George, the refs were in the spotlight once again when they issued more controversial penalties – this time, to India Lee and Sam Long. The calls prompted athletes and spectators alike to call for better technology for enforcing penalties – will we see Race Ranger devices at future world championships?
WATCH: See Long’s controversial penalty call for yourself – Outside+ members can replay the 70.3 World Championship race on demand with Outside Watch.
Super League Takes Over the World
London, Munich, Malibu, France, Saudi Arabia – in all, this year’s Super League Triathlon Championship Series covered more than 17,000 miles and brought in crowds of spectators in every corner of the globe. The fast-pace short course series, which utilizes a variety of unconventional formats such as the Enduro (one massive mini-triathlon repeated three times) or the Eliminator (where athletes are eliminated at the end of each discipline) dished out a $1.4 million prize purse, five bike crashes, and even one tetanus shot after pro Vasco Vilaca was bitten by a seal during a swim in Malibu.
WATCH: See the Super League action of 2o22 with your Outside+ membership, which gets you access to all race replays on demand.
Flora Duffy Earns 4th WTCS Title
Is there anything Flora Duffy can’t do? At a thrilling World Triathlon Championship Series final in Abu Dhabi, Duffy earned her fourth WTCS title, adding yet another feather in her already-impressive cap. In addition to being the reigning Olympic champion in triathlon, Duffy has multiple titles at the Commonwealth Games and world titles in ITU cross triathlon and XTERRA off-road triathlon. She was also invited to Buckingham Palace this year to receive the title of Dame, because even the Queen recognizes Flora as the G.O.A.T.
Vic Brumfield Named CEO of USA Triathlon
After USA Triathlon CEO Rocky Harris stepped down in August to take a position with the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee as chief of sport and athlete services, a search began for the new leader of triathlon’s governing body in the USA. Their pick was both novel and familiar: Victoria Brumfield, who served as USA Triathlon’s interim CEO since early September, was named the organization’s first female CEO in its 40-plus-year history. In an interview with Triathlete, Brumfield outlined her goals for the organization, which include the “continued evolution of different disciplines and distances” and investing in the youth of the sport to create lifelong athletes.
World Championship Split in 2023
After the challenges of (and resident opposition to) hosting a two-day race on the Big Island, local officials informed Ironman they could no longer support the expanded format. In response, Ironman announced they would be utilizing a different strategy. Beginning in 2023, men and women will race on different days in different locations. Next year, the women’s race will take place in Kona, while the men’s race will be in a yet-to-be-named location on a different date; in 2024, the two will swap locations.
RELATED: 10 Questions With Ironman CEO on World Championships Split Announcement
Mike Reilly Retires
In December, beloved race announcer Mike Reilly welcomed his final athletes across the finish line, then hung up his mic. Reilly, also known as “The Voice of Ironman,” retired after 33 years of work as a race announcer, where he has called the names of more than 350,000 triathletes. His plans involve plenty of family time and (we assume) plenty of quiet.