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Daniela Ryf overcomes jellyfish stings, breaks Ironman Kona course record by 20 minutes

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Two minutes before the 6:40 a.m. start of Ironman Kona, three-time champion Daniela Ryf felt something unusual during her warm-up drills in Kailua Bay.

“Jellyfish under my armpits on both sides sting me,” Ryf said in a Triathlete.com video interview. “Yeah, it was a bit of a shock. I was like, oh no. I tried to convince myself this didn’t happen.”

It’s just about the worst place to get stung before Saturday’s 2.4-mile swim. Ryf said it was “very painful” to make it out of the water in 57 minutes, 26 seconds, more than nine minutes behind the race leader.

She made up the deficit on Brit Lucy Charles on the 112-mile bike and ended up winning her fourth straight Ironman world title after the marathon run. Ryf prevailed by 10 minutes in 8:26:18, shattering her course record by 20 minutes in perfect, windless weather.

Ryf came “very, very close” to quitting in the water. She was surprised to find that she wasn’t in last place going into the bike.

“I really didn’t know if I’m going to make it, actually, if I’m going to just drown,” Ryf said in a Triathlonworld.com video interview. “I could barely lift my arms and they start to get numb.”

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Ryf, a Swiss who converted to distance triathlons after finishing 40th at the 2012 Olympics, was asked the next morning how she treated the stings once she got out of the water and into the transition zone.

“I’m not sure if I should tell you that because there’s two things you can do,” she said in a video interview with triathlon historian Bob Babbitt. “You can put vinegar on it. They didn’t have vinegar in that tent. I did some, how do you call it?”

Did you pee on it, Babbitt asked her.

“I improvised,” Ryf said, averting the question.

The sting may have caused Ryf to miss her goal of finishing within 30 minutes of the men’s winner. German Patrick Lange was 33:49 faster in shattering his men’s course record by nine minutes.

But as Ryf swam, she lowered her expectations, thinking about finishing in up to 15 hours.

“I just wanted to get out of that water and, hopefully, it would burn a bit less if I don’t need my arms anymore [on the bike and run],” she said.

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VIDEO: Lange wins Ironman, proposes to girlfriend

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Dan Hicks, Rowdy Gaines call backyard pool swim race

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Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines covered swimming together at the last six Olympics, including every one of Michael Phelps‘ finals, but they’ve never called a “race” quite like this.

“We heard you were looking for something to commentate during the down time….might this short short short course 100 IM help?” tweeted Cathleen Pruden, posting a video of younger sister Mary Pruden, a sophomore swimmer at Columbia University, taking individual medley strokes in what appeared to be an inflatable backyard pool.

“Hang on,” Gaines replied. “This race of the century deserves the right call. @DanHicksNBC and I are working some magic!”

Later, Hicks posted a revised video dubbed with commentary from he and Gaines.

They became the latest commentators to go beyond the booth to post calls on social media while sports are halted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NBC Sports hockey voice Doc Emrick (who has also called Olympic hockey and water polo) did play-by-play of a windshield wiper installation.

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MORE: Ledecky, Manuel welcome Olympic decision after training in backyard pool

Which athletes are qualified for the U.S. Olympic team?

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Soon after Tokyo Olympic qualifying events began getting postponed, the International Olympic Committee announced that all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes.

The IOC repeated that position over the last week, after the Tokyo Games were postponed (now to open July 23, 2021). What does that mean for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee?

Well, 76 athletes qualified for the U.S. Olympic team before the Olympic postponement was announced. That full list is here.

Those 76 athletes can be separated into two categories.

  • Athletes who earned Olympic spots BY NAME via International Federation (i.e. International Surfing Association or International Aquatics Federation) selection procedures.
  • Athletes named to the U.S. Olympic team by their national governing body (i.e. USA Swimming or USA Track and Field) and confirmed by the USOPC using NGB selection procedures after the NGB earned a quota spot.

When the IOC says “all quota places already allocated to National Olympic Committees and athletes will remain with those NOCs and athletes,” it means just that. USA Softball still has 15 athlete quota spots from qualifying a full team via international results. Surfer Kolohe Andino still has his Olympic spot from qualifying BY NAME via the International Surfing Association selection procedures route.

USA Softball named its 15-player Olympic roster last fall. Those 15 athletes did not earn Olympic quota spots for themselves. Unlike Andino (and 13 other American qualifiers across all sports), the 15 softball players had to be nominated by USA Softball and confirmed by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee.

Unless and until the USOPC confirms that any of those other 62 athletes remain qualified, for now the list of U.S. Olympic qualifiers is these 14 who qualified BY NAME:

Karate (1)
Sakura Kokumai

Modern Pentathlon (2)
Samantha Achterberg
Amro Elgeziry

Swimming (3)
Haley Anderson
Ashley Twichell
Jordan Wilimovsky

Sport Climbing (4)
Kyra Condie
Brooke Raboutou
Nathaniel Coleman
Colin Duffy

Surfing (4)
Caroline Marks
Carissa Moore
Kolohe Andino
John John Florence

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MORE: Qualified athletes go into limbo with Tokyo postponement