Norwegian Kristian Blummenfelt became the first triathlete to earn an Olympic gold medal and an Ironman world championship in the same year span, rallying to win the latter in St. George, Utah, on Saturday.
The 28-year-old covered a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run in an unofficial 7 hours, 49 minutes, 16 seconds. He is the first man to win an Ironman world title in his world championships debut since Belgian Luc Van Lierde in 1996.
“That was a tough day, brutal course,” Blummenfelt said in a finish-line interview.
Blummenfelt, eighth after the bike leg, easily made up a 4-minute, 23-second deficit on the closing marathon run to win the most prestigious distance triathlon in its first edition outside of Hawaii. Canadian Lionel Sanders was second, 4:46 behind, followed by New Zealand’s Braden Currie.
IRONMAN WORLDS: Results
Blummenfelt took the lead around the 18th mile of the marathon with temperatures in the mid-80s. He ran the marathon in 2:38:01.
In Tokyo, Blummenfelt was in fifth place going into the closing 10km run, making up a 15-second deficit to win the 32-mile race. Four months later, he debuted at the Ironman distance by clocking the fastest time ever for 140.6 miles — 7:21:12 — boosted from a significant swim current in Cozumel, Mexico.
German Jan Frodeno is the only other triathlete to win the Olympics and the Ironman world championships. His Ironman crown came seven years after his Olympic gold medal.
Frodeno, a three-time Ironman world champion, missed St. George due to an Achilles injury. The field lacked other stars: two-time world champion Patrick Lange of Germany (shoulder), Norwegian Gustav Iden, the half Ironman world champion (illness), and Brit Alistair Brownlee, the 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist (illness).
In the women’s race Saturday, Daniela Ryf earned her fifth world title, prevailing by 8:50 over Brit Kat Matthews in 8:34:59.
“I guess I’m still good,” she said.
Ryf, 34, moves into third place on the women’s career victories list, trailing Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser (eight) and fellow Swiss Natascha Badmann (six). Before moving up to Ironman, Ryf placed seventh and 40th in the 32-mile Olympic triathlons in 2008 and 2012.
At her last victory in on Hawaii’s Big Island in 2018, she broke the course record by 20 minutes despite getting stung by a jellyfish in both armpits on the opening 2.4-mile swim.
The Ironman World Championships were held outside of Hawaii for the first time since their 1978 inception. The coronavirus pandemic forced the event to be postponed in 2020 and 2021, the latter rescheduled from October and moved to St. George, which held the half Ironman world championships last year.
The world championships return to Kailua-Kona for a new, two-day race format — Oct. 6 for the women and Oct. 8 for the men.
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