Five Reasons To Follow The 2022 Ironman World Championships In Hawaii

2022 Ironman World Championships

  • Thursday, October 6, 2022 (women’s pro race)
  • Saturday, October 8, 2022 (men’s pro race)
  • Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
  • Start Times: 6:30 am local / 12:30 pm ET / 9:30 am PT
  • Distances:
    • Swim: 3.8 km / 2.4 miles
    • Bike: 180 km / 112 miles
    • Run: 42.2 km / 26.2 miles
  • Course Records:
    • Women: 8:26:16, Daniela Ryf (SUI), 2018
    • Men: 7:51:13, Jan Frodeno (GER), 2019
  • Race Central
  • Streaming Options:

For the first time since 2019, the Ironman Triathlon World Championships return to Kailua-Kona, Hawaii this year, with the pro women’s race running on Thursday and the men’s showdown set for Saturday.

This year’s race has several unique and intriguing storylines, due in part to the three-year hiatus.

In both 2020 and 2021, the event was canceled due to COVID-19. The sport had its start in Kona back in 1978, and the Big Island had always been the host of the World Championship event. After rescheduling the 2021 event for February 2022, strict COVID protocols once again got in the way, and the 2021 edition was held in St. George, Utah, in May.

There, reigning Olympic champion Kristian Blummenfelt completed the unthinkable double, winning the Olympic title (51.5 total kilometers) and then turning around and claiming the Ironman world title (226 total kilometers) in quick succession.

On the women’s side, Swiss powerhouse Daniela Ryf answered the critics who doubted she’d be able to return to top form after falling to 13th place in 2019, winning her fifth world title in dominant fashion.

Now, as the triathlon community reconvenes in Kona, there is a buzz in the air. There are many reasons why you should keep tabs on the event in the coming days, but here are the top five:

The Norwegians

Over the last couple of years, the Norwegian duo of Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden have been taking the sport to new heights. No one has ever been to juggle the speed and tactics required to excel in the short course realm while also having the stamina to perform in the iron-distance events, but they’re rewriting the script.

Blummenfelt won the Olympic gold medal in Tokyo, while Iden placed eighth. Less than two months later, Iden put on a dominant display at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships (half-distance), winning his second straight title.

In November, Iden made his full-distance debut at Ironman Florida, running a mind-boggling 2:34 marathon en route to a final time of seven hours, 42 minutes and 57 seconds (due to tough conditions, swim times were about 10 minutes slower than usual).

Blummenfelt then made his Ironman debut later that month, breaking the world record for the distance in a time of 7:21:12.

In the time since, Blummenfelt won the Ironman World title in St. George and then completed the first-ever full-distance event under seven hours (assisted) in the Sub7 project.

Iden was forced to pull out of St. George due to illness, but did have a head-to-head win over Blummenfelt at the PTO Canadian Open in July (100km distance).

Now, the two descend into Kona with heightened expectations despite being rookies on the Big Island.

The thing that makes their presence in Hawaii so intriguing this year is that we might not see it again, at least for some time. Both have stated their intention to vie for Olympic glory come 2024, meaning they’ll be spending the next two years in the short course realm in order to qualify for and be dialed into the distance for Paris.

This week’s event lost a bit of luster when three-time champion Jan Frodeno, who most consider the greatest triathlete of all-time, (also the 2008 Olympic champion) had to pull out due to injury. We also lost Alistair Brownlee, the Olympic champion in 2012 and 2016, to injury after he showed impressive form coming in.

But nonetheless, the “Norwegian Hype Train” as rival Joe Skipper labeled them, are here, and they’re bound to do some damage come Saturday.

In some people’s mind, it’s almost a forgone conclusion that Frodeno’s course record of 7:51:13 will be shattered by both Blummenfelt and Iden. We’ll see what they’re made of.

Ryf Races For Legacy

The aforementioned Ryf was unstoppable in Hawaii for four straight years, winning the title consecutively in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Stomach issues saw her fall to 13th in 2019, and some subpar results elsewhere led some to question whether or not she could get back to the top of the sport, with a wave of up-and-comers on the way and her turning 35 this past May.

But the Swiss athlete reminded everyone who the best in the world was in St. George, winning the women’s race by nearly nine minutes in 8:34:58 for her fifth title.

If Ryf manages to make it six titles on Thursday, she would tie fellow Swiss native Natascha Badmann for the second-most ever won by a woman, trailing only American Paula Newby-Fraser, who won eight in her storied career.

Lionel Sanders

Lionel Sanders has undoubtedly become one of the most recognizable triathletes in the world, due in part to his impressive race resume, but also for his sheer grit, brutal honesty and undying passion to “extract maximum value” out of himself every time out.

Sanders, a 34-year-old Canadian, has a compelling backstory of how he got into the sport, and frequently says triathlon saved his life.

He has now been the runner-up at the Ironman World Championships on two occasions, 2017 in Kona and earlier this year in St. George, and found plenty of success at the 70.3 distance.

Sanders’ popularity has exploded in recent years with the development of his YouTube channel, where he and his team, led by videographer Talbot Cox, will post workout vlogs where Sanders shares his unfiltered thoughts pre, during and post-workout (viewer discretion is advised).

Since arriving in Kona for pre-race acclimatization, the channel has been uploading daily workout vlogs that are averaging well in excess of 50K views.

Adding to the intrigue of Sanders’ journey is that he is now training under the tutelage of Mikal Iden, the brother of Gustav, giving the Canadian some insight into the Norwegian training method.

Lucy Charles-Barclay

The transition from swimmer to triathlete is a common one, so there are some names competing in Kona to keep an eye out on in the opening 3.8-kilometer swim leg.

Leading that charge is Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay, who finished second in the women’s 1500 freestyle at the British Olympic Trials last year (16:46.26).

Charles-Barclay, who was also vying for a spot on the 2012 British Olympic swim team before turning to triathlon, is a star in the water amongst her peers, and will surely be at the front of the race early.

Unlike most high-level swimmers, however, she’s got all the tools to back it up on the bike and the run, as Charles-Barclay has been the runner-up in Kona three straight times.

The 29-year-old won the Ironman 70.3 world title last year, but was forced out of the St. George race in May due to a stress fracture in her hip.

She initially had ruled out racing in Kona this year, but after returning to form quicker than expected, she’s back and will be in contention for the title on Thursday.

Another swimmer to watch for is American Haley Chura, a former member of the University of Georgia swim team who has led out of the water in this event before.

Fellow former Georgia swimmer Rachel Zilinskas, who raced for the Bulldogs up until the 2017 NCAAs, was forced to pull out of the event due to a stress fracture in her femur.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Rachel Zilinskas (@rachzili13)

The New Format

Due to an increased number of athletes competing, with age groupers having qualified for a few years without getting the opportunity to race, the Ironman World Championships will feature a unique two-day event this year for the first time.

The pro women will race on Thursday and the pro men on Saturday, with different age groups dispersed between the two.

The format should provide the pro women with increased coverage, as normally the chaoticness of everything happening at once results in anyone outside of the top three not getting much camera time throughout the race.

OTHER NAMES TO WATCH

Women

  • 2019 Ironman Hawaii champion Anne Haug, widely considered the best runner in the sport at present.
  • Germany’s Laura Philipp, who recorded the second-fastest time in history in a full-distance race earlier this year (8:18:20).

Men

  • German Patrick Lange, a two-time champion in Kona in 2017 and 2018 and the run course record holder.
  • Joe Skipper, an entertaining Brit who has created a friendly rivalry with Blummenfelt after going head-to-head with him at the Sub7 project in June. Despite joining the event on a few days’ notice, Skipper was only three minutes behind Blummenfelt at the finish, and is riding high after a masterful run en route to victory at Ironman Wales.
  • Up-and-coming Dane Magnus Ditlev, who won the full-distance Challenge Roth earlier this year in a blistering 7:35:48—narrowly missing Frodeno’s vaunted course record.

In This Story

7
Leave a Reply

Subscribe
Notify of

7 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Coach
1 month ago

I know others may not but I appreciate SwimSwam spreading their swim related coverage into Triathlon

Eli
1 month ago

where is the national OW meet in October? National team is going to be selected there apparently.

Swimmin in the South
1 month ago

Go Green!

Jackman
1 month ago

Go Lionel!

Classic_Swimmer
Reply to  Jackman
1 month ago

Sanders is just a showman. Never delivers when it counts.

GoDawgs
1 month ago

Since this is “swim” “swam” site, it would be nice to add Haley Chura and Rachel Zilinskas, former UGA All Americans and now pro Triathletes!

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

Read More »