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Your Guide to the 70.3 World Championship Women’s Contenders

We rate seven of the top contenders in the women's 70.3 World Championship race so you can follow along.

UPDATE: Paula Findlay and Chelsea Sodaro have both pulled out due to injury. Taylor Knibb, however, has confirmed she will be racing.

On Saturday, the 70.3 World Championship race will go off in St. George, Utah on a hilly and typically hot course. While the men’s field has seen a number of the biggest names drop out because of other commitments, injuries, or last-minute COVID change of plans, the women’s field remains intensely deep and full of recognizable 70.3 specialists—to the point that there could very much be a surprise from other athletes (Ellie Salthouse, Jackie Hering, Jeannie Metzler) not rated among the top or most obvious contenders.

Stay tuned for more on how to watch.

Read on for our expert guide, with data provided by Thorsten Radde of Trirating.com. And check out the men’s preview here.

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Daniela Ryf

34 years old | Switzerland

Swim 4/5
Bike 5/5
Run 4/5

Who she is: One of the most successful female long-distance triathletes of all-time, Ryf has won four Ironman world titles, five 70.3 world titles, and represented Switzerland at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. 

Why she could win: Because she usually wins. Since her second place in her Kona debut in 2014, she’s been unstoppable. Her list of results in the last six years is a long row of first places—with the uncharacteristic 13th in Kona in 2019 and that mediocre performance at the Collins Cup a few weeks ago. But don’t worry: She followed up Samorin with a typical dominating win at Ironman Switzerland.

Why she might not: When the Swiss star has struggled it’s more often been at the shorter distances. But then again in her seven appearances at 70.3 Worlds, she’s won five times, took fourth in 2016, and sixth on debut. 

Overall performance 5/5
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Lucy Charles-Barclay

27 years old | Great Britain

Swim 5/5
Bike 3/5
Run 5/5

Who she is: A former elite swimmer who famously picked up triathlon as an age-grouper after failing to make the Olympics in swimming, Charles-Barclay hit her stride and exploded onto the pro scene in 2017—just two years after she raced on the Big Island as an amateur.

Why she could win: Since her surprising debut second at Kona in 2017, Charles-Barclay has been knocking on that top spot door at nearly every world championship race. Each year she takes the lead at the start and seems to hold onto it for a little longer. She’s also shown particular speed for the shorter events during the pandemic—with impressive performances at Super League, the British Olympic swimming trials, and on the World Triathlon circuit.

Why she might not: No one questions her swim and bike capabilities, but it’s been the run where she just hasn’t quite been able to hold off the chargers behind. But if her recent 1:18 half-marathon and 35-minute 10K off-the-bike are reliable indicators, her run may not be a question anymore.

Overall performance 4/5
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Holly Lawrence

31 years old | Great Britain

Swim 4/5
Bike 3/5
Run 4/5

Who she is: The 2016 70.3 World Champion, Lawrence had been at the forefront of a contingent of 70.3 specialists who could dominate the women’s field. After moving to long course from the World Triathlon circuit in 2015 (and moving to the U.S.), the British star quickly worked her way up through the 70.3 ranks.

Why she could win: When she’s on, she’s really on. In 2019, she won every 70.3 regional championship. In 2017, she won every single 70.3 she entered, except for one—the world championships. And that year that Ryf took 4th at the 70.3 World Championships, who won? Lawrence. She could do it again.

Why she might not: That 70.3 she didn’t win in 2017? She DNF’d. She then spent most of 2018 out with a bad injury. She’s shown some return to form this year, with a first at Des Moines 70.3 and a second at Elsinore 70.3—but she was sixth on this course back in May.

Overall performance 4/5
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Emma Pallant-Browne

32 years old | Great Britain

Swim 2/5
Bike 3/5
Run 5/5

Who she is: A former pro runner who missed out on the Olympic track team, she turned to triathlon as cross training at first (and won a duathlon world championship), but found success after moving up to and specializing in the middle distance.

Why she might win: Always a contender on the run, Pallant-Browne has worked on her swimming and biking over the pandemic and has been in form in recent races. She lost to Lawrence at Des Moines 70.3, but then beat her countrywoman a few weeks later at Escape from Alcatraz. In between she won Boulder 70.3 (against some of these same competitors) and then followed it with one of the top performances at the Collins Cup.

Why she might not: Since her second at 2017 70.3 Worlds, she hasn’t won a major championship. Her bike and run are world class, but she’ll be fighting to catch up to the mermaid likes of Charles-Barclay and that second group of swimmers, which will likely include Ryf, Lawrence, and Findlay.

Overall performance 3/5
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Paula Findlay

32 years old | Canada

Swim 4/5
Bike 3/5
Run 4/5

Who she is: A Canadian Olympian who has talked openly about the struggles she had with pressure and injuries during her run as an Olympic favorite, Findlay has found success (and happiness) in recent years on the long-course circuit. She and her boyfriend, fellow pro, Eric Lagerstrom also run the popular That Triathlon Life Youtube channel.

Why she might win: Going into COVID, Findlay looked poised for a long-course breakthrough with back-to-back wins at the end of 2019 (topping Charles-Barclay at Challenge Daytona). She made good on that promise with a win for the ages at the PTO Championship at Challenge Daytona in 2020 and catapulted herself to the top of the list of contenders for any middle-distance race.

Why she might not: She’s been nursing some niggles on and off over the last few years, and had solid performances this year (fourth at St. George 70.3 in May) but not top step on the podium. If she’s been able to manage her training and injuries, then watch out.

Overall performance 3/5
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Chelsea Sodaro

32 years old | United States

Swim 3/5
Bike 3/5
Run 5/5

Who she is: After missing out on the 2016 Olympics on the track, Sodaro turned to triathlon when her husband suggested it. After moving to 70.3s in 2018, she was quickly on the top step of most podiums and was the top American at 2019 70.3 Worlds. She’s since given birth to a daughter earlier this year and come back to make the Collins Cup team.

Why she might win: Fourth at the last 70.3 World Championships in 2019, Sodaro moved her way up from 13th on the run. She could do similar this weekend, where the course in St. George lends itself to her strengths.

Why she might not: She’s only been back to training post-partum for about seven months. While she showed huge improvements from her sixth at 70.3 Boulder to the Collins Cup, those are the only races she’s done since 2019. It might just be too soon for a podium at Worlds.

Overall performance 3/5
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Wildcard: Taylor Knibb

23 years old | United States

Swim 5/5
Bike 5/5
Run 4/5

Who She Is: The youngest female triathlete to make the U.S. Olympic team, the former U23 world champ arrived on the senior circuit in style this summer with a silver medal in the team relay in Tokyo, then jumped into her first-ever 70.3 in Boulder and took second on her road bike, followed it with impressive performances at the sprint World Triathlon Montreal race, and then a surprise win at the Grand Finale in Edmonton, and then (just to top it all off) posted the fastest women’s time and beat Ryf handily at the Collins Cup.

Why She Could Win: She outbiked Ryf! And rode away from a solid field in Boulder as well. No one knows exactly how she’ll perform, but her swimming and biking appear to be among the best in the world—and she clearly has no fear.

Why She Might Not: Because she might not even start. With such a busy past few months, it’s been a question mark if Knibb will be on the start line in St. George and if she is, if she’ll be feeling the fatigue.

Overall performance 5/5