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Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf earned her second-straight Ironman World Championship today, posting a 52:50 swim, a 4:52: 26 bike and a 2:56:51 marathon to defend her title in 8:46:46, establishing a new course record. The victory makes Ryf the eighth female to earn more than one Kona title and the fifth female to successfully defend her crown. While Ryf dominated out front, the race for the two remaining podium spots was exciting. Though she was a distant second, Carfrae cruised through the marathon in classic Rinny style to finish second. American Heather Jackson earned her first Kona podium finish in third.
Great Britain’s Jodie Swallow set the pace for a good chunk of the women’s swim, but it was American Meredith Kessler who officially earned the title of fastest woman out of the water. She exited at 52:46, with 2012 Ironman world champion Leanda Cave (GBR), Swallow, Annabel Luxford (AUS), Alicia Kaye (USA), Camilla Pedersen (DEN), Daniela Ryf (SUI), Anja Beranek (GER), Laurel Wassner (USA), Michelle Vesterby (DEN), Katja Konschak (GER) and Julia Gajer (GER) all following within 11 seconds. It was a long wait before we saw the next mini group out of the water made up of Carrie Lester (AUS), Heather Wurtele (CAN) and three-time champion Mirinda Carfrae (AUS). Other important gaps to contenders include Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED), Melissa Hauschildt (AUS) and Heather Jackson (USA) all at about six minutes back.
Ryf turned in a patient front half of the bike, eventually choosing to make a bit of a move with only Beranek able to keep pace. At the 42.7-mile mark before the climb up to Hawi, Ryf and Beranek held just under a minute lead over Vesterby, Swallow, Kessler, Kaye and Luxford. Following those athletes were Pedersen (2:44 back), Cave (4:41 back), Van Vlerken (6:06 back), Wurtele (6:31 back) and Carfrae (6:33 back).
The defending champion continued to look stoic out front out of the turn at Hawi, with Beranek still managing to chase closely behind. The nearest pursuers—Kessler, Swallow, Vesterby, Luxford and Kaye—sat at three minutes back, but the real concern was how far back the stronger runners had fallen. Jackson and Hauschildt—touted as two of the athletes to watch in this race—sat at more than eight minutes back with Carfrae at more than nine minutes back. The critical question at this point of the race became: How much bigger would Ryf’s advantage get over the last 52 miles of the ride?
The answer was that Ryf’s lead coming out of T2 would be massive. The advantage stood at 8:03 over Beranek, 14:02 over Jackson, 14:09 over Luxford, 15:08 over Ellis and Kessler, 16:36 over Vesterby, 16:38 over Swallow and 19:08 over Hauschildt. As Ryf got well onto the run course, Carfrae came off of the bike in the 13th position at 22:15 back. As strong as Carfrae as run on this course, it appeared unlikely that she would get her fourth Ironman World Championship title.
Ryf cruised through the entire marathon, showing no moments of weakness. As she neared the finish line it became her versus the clock as she targeted Carfrae’s 2013 record of 8:52:14. She looked strong all the way to the finish, breaking the tape to smash the course record in 8:46:46.
“That was my best race ever,” Ryf said at the finish line. “Thanks so much to my team. You cannot imagine. … I doubted all week whether I was strong enough on the bike after Mooloolaba and now I’m breaking the record in Kona. I didn’t even feel any pain.”
Carfrae ran her way from that 13th position off of the bike to second at the finish line, capping off her day with a 2:58:20 marathon to earn the runner-up spot in 9:10:30. In only her second time racing in Kona (she finished fifth last year), Jackson was impressive to finish in third at 9:11:32 and become the first American woman to finish on the podium in 10 years.
2016 Ironman World Championship
Oct. 8, 2016 – Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run
1. Daniela Ryf (SUI) 8:46:46
2. Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 9:10:30
3. Heather Jackson (USA) 9:11:32
4. Anja Beranek (GER) 9:14:26
5. Kaisa Lehtonen (FIN) 9:15:40
6. Michelle Vesterby (DEN) 9:19:05
7. Sarah Piampiano (USA) 9:22:31
8. Asa Lundstrom (SWE) 9:22:59
9. Lucy Gossage (GBR) 09:22:59
10. Carrie Lester (AUS) 9:28:17