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Countdown To Kona: The Joy Of Six (2005)

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With the Ironman World Championship set to take place four days from today, we take a look back at each race from the past three decades. Today, we go back to 2005 and the year Natascha Badmann took her sixth title.  All of the following photos and text are taken from the book, “30 Years of The Ironman Triathlon World Championship” by Bob Babbitt.

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There were other women racing at Ironman Hawaii – 466 others to be precise. At that euphoric, late-night party atmosphere along Alii Drive – where native Hawaiians dressed in grass skirts and floral prints hula dance and pound the drums, where rock music blares, schwag flies through the air and thousands squeeze tight to celebrate life – Sarah Reinertsen sent tears down the spectators’ cheeks, becoming the first woman with a prosthetic limb to finish the race.

In the race’s final hour, Sister Madonna Buder at 76 became the oldest woman to finish Ironman Hawaii. Talk about faith. Barely 30 minutes after the midnight finishing hour, Sister Buder rested, exhausted and passed out atop a cement bench not 75 yards from the finish line.

Hours earlier, when the sun was still baking, 27-year-old Aussie Kate Major further validated what seems to be a given: Eventually, the laurel wreath will be placed upon the former squash star’s head. In her knock-knock-knock, I’m coming rise, Major has finished 12th-9th-3rd-3rd the past four years on the Big Island.

But on the subject of which female would cross the finish line first at the 2005 Ironman Triathlon World Championship, it came down to two women: Michellie Jones and Natascha Badmann.

Two remarkable women, so talented yet so different: Jones, five-feet-10, regal, polished, professional. Badmann, five-feet-four, emotional, effervescent; her heart, soul and emotions for all to see. Jones, the Olympic-distance darling. Badmann, the longer the better. Jones, raised in a warm home with a twin sister. Badmann, who will only say of her childhood, “some things with my family were not how it should be.” Jones, the Ironman Hawaii rookie. Badmann, trying to join the rank of legends and win the race a sixth time.

And so on October 15, 2005, the two women converged – Natascha Badmann, wanting to etch her name among the greats and wallow in the applause one more time and Michellie Jones, in only her second Ironman race, needing to answer the Big Island’s siren song.