On a day that saw a German and Swiss athlete become IRONMAN ® World Champions, it was Liz Blatchford who salvaged something for Australia.
The Sunshine Coast-based Jan Frodeno and Swiss star Daniela Ryf produced dominant performances to claim their first IRONMAN World Championship titles at Kailua-Kona.
Blatchford kept alive Australia’s streak of podium finishers which has been unbroken since 2004. The streak looked in danger after three-time champion Mirinda Carfrae was forced to retire half way into the 180km bike leg.
In stepped Mermaid Beach’s toughest resident, Blatchford. The Queenslander produced a stunning run, making her way from 10th to third, matching the finish from her debut year in 2013.
“Two years ago it was a really big surprise – it was my debut and I didn’t know what to expect – and last year I didn’t have a great day and really battled for tenth,” she said.
“I guess it’s been two years of really wondering if that was a fluke and whether I’m worthy of the podium. So to get back up there is really satisfying and I’m thrilled.”
After exiting the water 25 seconds behind Jodie Sallow in a group of including most of the contenders, Blatchford kept focussed on her own race plan, with the approach paying off.
“My plan was to try to hang with them, but at a point I had to make a decision and I didn’t know if it was the right decision – the pace was just too hard for me. I knew if I went with it, I might not finish,” she said.
“I did have to back off and it was a pretty bloody lonely ride … more than half completely on my own. I questioned whether I made the right decision, but once I’d made that decision I had to stick with it and be really patient on the run.”
Two bike accidents during training, the second just three days before the race, left Carfrae with a sore back and shoulder.
“I think I underestimated the impact of that crash. I felt okay in the swim, not great but okay, but then from the get go on the bike my back and glutes started to tighten up and I started going backwards. I could have finished, but I don’t come here to participate I come here to compete,” she said.
After pulling out at the 90km mark, Carfrae’s day was far from over.
After a quick change, she headed out into the run course to cheer home her husband, American Tim O’Donnell, who was in the midst of a titanic battle for second place with German Andreas Raelert.
O’Donnell held onto second until the last few kilometres of the run where he was unable to stay with the surging Raelert, relegating him to third.
“It was better to cheer Tim. I saw how well he was going and thought I should concentrate all my energy on getting him home. He showed the best bikers in the world today how to ride a bike,” Carfrae said. “He’s kind of been under the radar today, but he showed he’s a champion and he’s only going up from here.
“At least one person in the family raced well if I’m not going to race well then it may as well be him.”
The Australian connection continued with Frodeno, the fiancÃ© of Olympic gold medallist Emma Snowsill, capping an extraordinary season that saw him win the IRONMAN European Championship and last month’s IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship.
Frodeno and Snowsill are expecting an addition to the family, and the soon to be Dad kissed his wife’s belly as he added another world championship to his 2008 Olympic Gold medal.
“I always dreamed that I would make that history myself, but I didn’t realise that I’d be a part of it. I honestly think it’s more rewarding than if it was for myself,” Snowsill said.
“It’s so different being on the side and being a part of helping someone. I was crying, 5km out – it was so emotional. It’s not been about me and that’s something I never appreciated as an athlete because you’re so self-consumed.”
The 2015 IRONMAN World Championship presented by GoPro can be viewed live exclusively on www.ironman.com. Comprehensive coverage will capture every aspect of the race and feature a hosted show, athlete tracker and live blog.