Chelsea Sodaro was the surprise winner of the Ironman Kona World Championships women’s race, ending the longest American victory drought in the event’s 44-year history.
Sodaro, a 33-year-old mom to an 18-month-old, prevailed in an unofficial 8 hours, 33 minutes, 46 seconds on Hawaii’s Big Island.
“My mind is a little bit blown right now,” she said in a finish area interview 25 minutes later, standing next to her daughter, Skylar. “This is the culmination of things being right in my life and having perspective. … This is freakin’ incredible, but the greatest gift at the end of the finish line is my little 18-month-old.”
Sodaro was in fifth place after the 2.6-mile swim and 112-mile bike, then recorded one of the fastest 26.2-mile marathon runs in event history (2:51:45) to win by 7 minutes, 50 seconds over Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay.
Swiss Daniela Ryf, who was eyeing her sixth Ironman world title, led after the bike but faded quickly on the run.
Sodaro, whose lone previous full Ironman was a second-place finish at June’s European Championships (reportedly in the second-fastest Ironman distance debut in history), became the first American to win in Kona since Tim DeBoom in 2002 and the first American to win the women’s race since Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser in 1996.
She is the first woman or man to win in their Kona debut since Brit Chrissie Wellington took the first of her four titles in 2007.
Sodaro (née Reilly) was an All-America runner at Cal, then placed 19th in the 10,000m at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.
She turned to triathlon in 2017, made podiums on the World Cup circuit (just below the top-level World Series for Olympic hopefuls) and moved up to long-distance racing in 2018.
At the half Ironman distance, she was fourth at the 2019 World Championships, her last major championship start before the pandemic, pregnancy, childbirth and a move up to the full Ironman this year.
“I’m pretty stoked that I think I maybe get to take the rest of the year off and be a mom for a month or so,” Sodaro said.
The pro men’s race is Saturday, live on Peacock at 12 p.m. ET.
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