Recalled: A Look Back at Key Moments in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships
Still a relatively new concept on the triathlon scene, the Ironman 70.3 World Championship event has only been around since 2006. But what the race lacks in age, it makes up for in fierce competition, fast times, and plenty of sparks, too. Here’s a look back at some of the major moments from the event's history.
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2007: Andy Potts becomes the first American man to win the 70.3 world title
Nothing like having to sprint at the pointy end of a 70.3. That’s just what American Andy Potts has to do to claim his first world title, making up a two-minute deficit on the bike to run past Argentina’s Oscar Galindez in the final throes of the race, winning by just four seconds. Potts becomes the first (and, so far, only) American man to claim victory at the 70.3 world champs.
2008: American women sweep the podium
The United States pulls off an impressive country sweep at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships, with Americans Joanna Zeiger, Mary Beth Ellis, and Becky Lavelle grabbing all three podium positions. Zeiger, who is the oldest-ever women’s winner at 38, sets a world record time with her 4:02:49 finish, and she remains the only American woman to win the 70.3 world title. No other country has swept the podium since.
2009: World records crushed
Ideal weather and a speedy bike course sets the stage for jaw-dropping performances on the morning of Nov. 14, 2009, with both Michael Raelert of Germany on the men’s side and Julie Diben’s of Great Britain winning in world-record-setting times. Raelert’s 3:34:04—including a 1:09:05 run split—marks the first time any man dipped under the 3 hour, 40 minute mark, while Dibens becomes the first woman to crack 4 hours with a 3:59:33. Both records stand for several years, with Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt eventually lowering the mark to 3:25:21 in 2019. Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf now holds the world’s fastest 70.3 time by a woman with a 3:57:55, set in 2018.
2010: Raelert Repeats
With a lethal 1:09:57 run split, Raelert out runs the Czech Republic’s Filip Ospaly to take the 2010 crown, becoming the first man to nab back-to-back 70.3 World Championship titles. Raelert’s 2009 time on the Clearwater, Florida course is some seven minutes slower than his finish world-record-setting time of the year before, but the race is just as intense, with the German roaring back from more than a minute deficit on the bike to take the tape.
2014: Ironman 70.3 World Champs go global
After an eight-year U.S.-based run in Clearwater, Florida and then Henderson, Nevada, Ironman takes its 70.3 World Champs north to Mont-Tremblant, Canada. This move reflects Ironman’s desire to make the event more internationally recognized and received, and they announce a plan to rotate the race locations among different regions on an annual basis. So far, 70.3 worlds have been held in Zell am See, Austria; Mooloolaba, Australia; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Mandela Bay, South Africa; Nice, France; and now St. George, Utah.
2015: Ryf Repeats
Daniela Ryf asserts her dominance in the sport with a definitive victory in Zell am See, making her the first woman to win back-to-back 70.3 world titles. And Ryf doesn’t just win: She trounces the field, finishing nearly 12 minutes ahead of runner-up Heather Wurtele of Canada. After an off year in 2016 (she places fourth), Ryf goes on to win three more consecutive 70.3 World Champs in 2017, 2018, and 2019, making her by far the most successful woman at the distance.
2016: Fireworks at the finish in Mooloolaba
Just two seconds separate Australia’s Timothy Reed and Germany’s Sebastian Kienle in the closest-ever finish in Ironman 70.3 World Championship history. The pair battle stride-for-stride all the way to the famous red carpet, where Reed, buoyed by his home country crowd, throws in a final surge to become the first Australian to win the world 70.3 title since 2011, when Craig Alexander earned his second win.
2017: The race splits to a two-day event (for now)
As a way to offer more athletes qualifying spots, Ironman divides the race into two days with women competing on Saturday and men competing on Sunday in the event held in Chattanooga, Tennesee. As a result, the field expands from 3,000 to 4,500—and the pro women are given their own space on the race course, satisfying an “overwhelming desire to let the women have their own day, instead of constantly being mixed up in the men’s race,” according to race officials.
2017: Marine sets world record in Chattanooga
Finisher times are across-the-board slower on a challenging, undulating course, but a world record is still set in Chattanooga, with Marine Mike Mendoza establishing the mark for the most Ironman-branded 70.3 triathlons in a year, at 19. Through the effort, Mendoza, who also raised money for injured and wounded military members, sets the non-branded race record with 24 half-iron-length events between March 18 and Nov. 12, 2017.
2019: The women’s field tops 2,000
The Ironman 70.3 World Championships certainly had rather humble beginnings: The first race in 2006 had 1,800 athletes register total. Through the years, the event bloomed, especially among female participants. When the champs are held in Nice, France in 2019, there are over 2,000 women signed up to race—a significant jump. At the front of the women’s field? Ryf, who makes it three in a row with a win over Great Britain’s Holly Lawrence.
2019: Gustav Iden is the youngest-ever world champion
Gustav Iden, a relative unknown from Norway, puts the world on notice with a powerhouse performance. The only pro to ride a road bike in Nice, Iden, then mostly a short-course specialist, charges by two-time Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee to become the first Norwegian in history to take the title. And, at just 23, he also becomes the youngest ever 70.3 world champion. (On the women’s side, Lawrence is the youngest-ever champ, having won in 2016 at the age of 26 years and 6 months.)
2020: COVID cancels the Ironman 70.3 World Championships (and everything else)
After being postponed “indefinitely” earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, Ironman announces the cancellation of the 70.3 World Championships, originally scheduled for New Zealand in late November. They are rescheduled for September 2021 in St. George, Utah, where they remained through 2022.
2021: The race goes back to a one-day event
With COVID travel restrictions greatly reducing the size of the field, Ironman decides to push the race back to a one-day event for one year only.
2022: Two-day format returns with a bang
With over 6,000 age-group athletes and some of the deepest pro fields the race has ever seen, the 2022 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in St. George promises to be one of the largest and most exciting events in 70.3 history. Pro and age-group women will race on Friday, followed by the pro and age-group men on Saturday.
Free live coverage of the 2022 Ironman 70.3 World Championships in St. George will air exclusively on Outside Watch October 28 and 29. Outside+ Members will also be able to watch the race coverage on demand after the conclusion of the event. (Not an Outside+ member? Become one now for only $2.49 per month!)