Ironman World Championships: Queens Of Kona
We look back at the achievements of multiple-Kona winners Paula Newby-Fraser, Natascha Badmann and Chrissie Wellington
Triumph at the Ironman World Championships is incredibly hard to come by, but these three women made it look easy. Between them, Paula Newby-Fraser, Natascha Badmann and Chrissie Wellington account for 18 out of the 33 wins at the event. Here’s a brief look at the Kona careers of these amazing champions.
Paula Newby-Fraser utterly dominated the world of Ironman racing from the mid 1980s to mid 1990s, winning 24 Ironman events between 1985 and 2004 including a record eight Ironman World Championship titles.
Born in Zimbabwe and raised in South Africa, Newby-Fraser turned up for her first Hawaii Ironman in 1985 having never completed the individual distances in training. No small measure of natural ability and a mind of iron meant that she managed to place third all the same.
The following year, Newby-Fraser went 40 minutes faster to take gold in 9:49:14 and then went on to battle her way to another seven victories on the Big Island (1988-1989, 1991-1994 and 1996), including an astonishing race in 1992 where she set a course record of 8:55:28 that stood until Chrissie Wellington bettered it in 2009.
Switzerland’s Natascha Badmann first lined up for Ironman Hawaii in 1996 and raced to a superb second place behind ‘Queen of Kona’, Paula Newby-Fraser, making her a serious contender for the title the following year.
Despite a DNF in 1997, the Swiss Miss returned to Hawaii with dominating form in 1998 to take the first of six wins on the Big Island.
Badmann followed up with victories in 2000-2002, 2004 (Badmann was awarded the win after Nina Craft admitted to using EPO) and 2005, posting her fastest ever time of 9:09:30 to clinch her final win.
Badmann’s long illustrious career in triathlon continues today and at 46 years old, the Swiss superstar is still racing at the highest level, having come sixth at the Ironman World Championships in 2012.
Chrissie Wellington came to triathlon as an extraordinarily hard-working age-grouper, winning the Olympic-distance age-group world championships in 2006 before turning pro the next year.
In August 2007, just two months before the Ironman World Championship, Wellington won her first Ironman event at Ironman Korea. The win was the first of 13 iron-distance events around the world, with the Brit winning every single one that she started.
Wellington went to Hawaii as a complete outsider in October 2007 but put together an incredible race in the Hawaiian heat to win 9:08:45, five minutes clear of her pursuers and the only first-year pro to ever take victory there. Wellington also clocked what was at the time the second fastest run split ever in Kona – 2:59:58.
Wellington won again in 2008 despite a flat tyre, setting a new marathon course record of 2:57:44, and in 2009, was back in Kona to set a new women’s record of 8:54:02, beating Newby-Fraser’s 17-year-old time and coming 23rd overall.
Wellington missed out on a Kona start in 2010 due to illness but went on to set a new Ironman world record at Ironman Arizona before beating it early the following year at Ironman South Africa.
So determined was Chrissie to return to Kona in 2011 that she lined up despite suffering a bad bike crash two weeks before the race. Still showing huge patches of road rash and with a severe pectoral injury too, Wellington had a slower swim than usual and came off the bike with time to make up.
Running her way into the lead, Wellington hung on in spite of the pain to take her fourth Ironman World Championship in 8:55:08. Following the event, which Wellington described as her perfect race, the four-time Ironman World Champion bowed out of the sport.
See the rest of our 2013 Ironman World Championship coverage here. We’ll be updating regularly in the run up to Kona.