Mirinda Carfrae can stand tall amongst Australia’s triathlon royalty today after running her way into the records books with her third Kona crown at the Ironman Triathlon World Championships in Hawaii yesterday.
This was the performance of the day as she ran down the leaders in extraordinary circumstances – clocking a marathon time of 2 hours 50. 56 – giving away a lead no one thought she could possibly come back from at the conclusion of the bike.
But the defending champion and 2010 winner did and produced the run that will long live in the memories of anyone who saw her hammer home to the famous commentator Mike Reilly’s call of “Miranda Carfrae of Australia – the 2014 women’s Ironman Triathlon world champion.”
Favourites faltered and new faces emerged – dreams came true and others were shattered in the both men and women’s elites as the who’s who of Australia’s professional ranks and the fiercely competitive Age Group Team set about chasing their own slice of Kona glory.
Carfrae, 34, who was introduced to Ironman racing by Australia’s best performed Ironman Craig Alexander, emulated his feat – becoming the second Australian behind “Crowie” to win three titles.
Only four women – Chrissie Wellingon, Natascha Badmann and Paula Newby-Fraser have won the coveted title three times or more.
It was a record-breaking day for the pint-sized Queenslander who produced a stunning victory on a day that saw male debutant, Albury-born Ballina new boy Tim Van Berkel produce an extraordinary performance in the men’s race to finish seventh on debut as 297 Australians joined over 2000 triathletes for Ironman triathlon’s greatest day.
As the races unfolded even one of our greats, 1994 winner, Hall-of-Famer Greg Welch, spoke in awe as Carfrae started running 15 minutes behind leader Daniela Ryf (SUI) and in hot pursuit of a Kona finish no one thought was possible.
Not even Carfrae herself who said later she would be satisfied with a top five finish and a top three at best – but not a win – not this year. But she proved herself wrong.
She was dumbfounded after crossing the line draped in an Australian flag to win her third Ironman Triathlon World Championship (2010, 2013, 2014).
"I don't know how I got it done today, those girls (Daniela Ryf and Rachel Joyce) are all class, I just tried to be patient and had them in my sights one girl at a time.
"I would have been happy with a top three today but to be first in the world again I can't believe it.
"I thought top five would be great and then a top three would be Ok.
"I was running scared for the last four miles, I would have liked to enjoyed it.
"Those girls were tough. Defending is harder than anything."
She won in nine hours 55 seconds and her 2:50:26 run split was 12 seconds faster than last year's record.
Ryf held on for second in 9:02:57 and British triathlete Rachel Joyce, who was runner-up last year, was third in 9:04:23.
Carfrae told AAP’s Roger Vaughan, who was in Kona for the race: "It's massive – Crowie Alexander is one of the guys who helped me get to this place," she said.
"So to equal his three times here is amazing.
"To join the likes of Paula Newby-Fraser, Chrissie Wellington, Natascha Badmann – legends of our sport – to put my name up there, unbelievable.
"I couldn't have written this script better.
"Mentally it was tougher than other years for sure, because it was the latter stages of the run that it took to catch those front girls," she said.
"I didn't think it was my day and I don't even know how to explain it – one foot in front of the other, keep truckin'.
"I'm used to chasing all day and I had to do it again today, but the girls out the front were all class.
"I'm pretty shocked to have been able to break the tape."
MEANWHILE in the men’s race the Grant Giles coached Van Berkel can certainly put 2014 down as a “dream debut” saying before the race he had worked hard for his spot.
“I grew up watching this and always wanted to be there one day,” said Van Berkel.
“My training and preparation for this race has been flawless; I have trained hard and I’m feeling good, ready to race!
“The only expectations I have for myself and this race is to get a feel and respect for it, race within my means and hopefully see where that takes me.”
For many experts, Van Berkel has taken the quantum leap and what a way to launch his career, 7th in 8 hrs 23 mins 26 secs behind podium finishers Sebastian Kienle (GER) 8:14:18, Ben Hoffman (USA) 8:19:23 and 2008 Olympic champion Jan Frodeno (GER) 8:20:32. Read the full account of Tim’s race:
AUSTRALIA filled four spots in the top 20 in the men’s race at the Ironman World Championship in Kona with debutant Tim Van Berkel 7th, three time-winner Craig (CROWIE) Alexander 13th, Paul Matthews 14th and last year's runner-up Luke McKenzie 15th. Others in the top 40 were Tim Reed 21st, Levi Maxwell 26th, Joe Gambles 29th and Paul Ambrose 35th. The 2012 winner Pete Jacobs, who had struggled again earlier in the year, was forced to withdraw, later posting on Twitter: “For my physical and mental health, my future, my income, I couldn't run/walk today when not 100%. Doing that twice this year was enough.”
In the Age Group placings, Australia fared well with:
Julie Kerr (60-64 years) and Kevin Fergusson (55-59 years) both winning their age groups while;
Chloe Lane (20-24) years), Rosie Oldham (30-34 years) Sam Boag (40-44 years); Karla McKinlay (65-69 years) all finished second and;
Janine Willis (40-44 years), June Ward (50-54 years), Samual Beveridge (18-24) and Nick Burt (40-44 years) all bring home the bronze.