(BIVN) – Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf defended her IRONMAN Women’s Championship on Saturday in Kona, shattering her own course best to claim her fourth world title with a time of 8:26:18, the fastest women’s time ever recorded.
In a later press conference, Ryf told media how it felt to be severely stung by jellyfish during the 2.4 mile swim in Kailua Bay, and how she pushed herself to continue the race despite the numbing pain.
“I was so happy I didn’t give up,” Ryf said. “I knew there was going to little kids watching that race and as a champion, I think you should try – whenever possible – not to give up.”
“Lucky I did,” Ryf said, “because I ended up having a fantastic race. That’s what Ironman racing is all about.”
Here is the Women’s Race Recap from IRONMAN:
To no surprise, Lucy Charles (GBR) smashed the swim course record, exiting the water in 48:14 with a gap of nearly three minutes on fellow super-swimmer Lauren Brandon (USA). IRONMAN Asia-Pacific champion Teresa Adam (NZL) was next onto the pier another minute behind, leading out a group that included Helle Frederiksen (DNK), Sarah True (USA) and Liz Blatchford (AUS).
Ryf found herself more than nine minutes back after battling through Kailua Bay and a jellyfish sting in 57:26. The three-time defending champ made her way through the field, moving from 15th to second by the 30-mile mark. Sarah Crowley (AUS) was the only athlete able to keep pace with the defending champ, but the pair of chasers couldn’t chip away much at Charles’ lead as they powered up the hill to Hawi.
Crowley broke shortly after the turnaround, as Ryf surged in an attempt to catch Charles before the start of the marathon. Charles four-minute lead quickly evaporated over the next 40 miles, and in a near replay of last year, Ryf passed Charles at mile-marker 105 and wouldn’t surrender the lead for the rest of the day. In what was no doubt the most impressive day of rewriting the record books, Ryf finished the ride in 4:26:06 after riding at an average pace of more than 25 mph. That split took 18 minutes off the previous course best.
Charles entered T2 just 1:40 behind Ryf, but the three-time champ made quick work of extending her lead on the out-and-back along Ali’i Drive. Corinne Abraham (GBR) and Crowley were the next athletes onto the run, with race rookies True and Anne Haug (DEU) not far behind.
By the time Ryf made it out to the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority (NELHA) and was headed back to town, her lead had grown to eight minutes, and the only question that remained was how far she’d lower her own course record. Charles remained steady in second, and the real race was happening between Haug and True for the final spot on the podium. True managed to hold off her fellow Olympian until the 22-mile mark, when Haug made a decisive pass as they headed for home.
By that point, Ryf was already storming down Ali’i Drive with a massive lead for the fourth victory in a row, but on this occasion, she was doing it in a time that seemed truly impossible at the beginning of the day. She broke the tape in 8:26:16—20 minutes, 30 seconds faster than her course record from 2016.
“What a day, I still can’t believe what happened,” said Ryf at the post-race press conference. “Before the race I said I wanted to do races that people would remember.”
Charles was next across the line 10 minutes later, posting the second-fastest time in race history. Haug rounded out the podium in her Kona debut, ahead of True and three-time champion Mirinda Carfrae, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively. All of the top ten women finished in under nine hours.