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It was a day of triumph and tears as Swallow claimed a hat-trick, but the race claimed two lives.

Ironman 70.3 South AfricaWhere Buffalo City, South Africa

When 20 January, 2013

Winners Bart Aernouts (BEL) 4:03:52, Jodie Swallow (GBR) 4:39:29

Billed as one the toughest Ironman 70.3 triathlons on the planet, this year’s race in Buffalo City, South Africa also boasted one of the strongest pro line-ups. World-record holder Marino Vanhoenacker and former Ironman world champion Faris Al-Sultan were on the start list, while two-time former champion Jodie Swallow and ITU World Series athletes Tim Don and Will Clarke were among the leading British contenders.

The race started furiously – a beachside dash into cold seas known for sharks. An early lead trio soon formed, including Britain’s Mark Threlfall, and they eventually opened up a significant gap on their chasers. In the women’s race, Jodie Swallow had created a sizeable gap of her own, with Lucie Reed (CZE) her nearest competition in second.

As the athletes took to their bikes, they were met with an uphill battle for the first 45km. Race leader Marko Albert was soon chased down by a fast-riding Clarke, while a second group formed some way behind the front two that included Don and multiple Ironman champions Bart Aernouts (BEL) and Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI). Eventually Aernouts passed both Albert and Clarke to take the lead while Schildknecht made his move into second place.

Aernouts held onto his winning margin throughout the two-lap out-and-back run course, while Schildknecht maintained his grip on second place. Behind them, a swift-footed Tim Don sped his way into third place to round off the podium. Will Clarke finished fifth, in 4:13.

Meanwhile Jodie Swallow was grabbing the race by the scruff of the neck. She led from start to finish, starting the run section with a five-minute gap. As the race developed, her closest rival was to become another Brit, Susie Hignett. After a particularly impressive run, Hignett finished four-minutes behind the victorious Swallow, while Reed took third.

For Swallow, it was an unprecedented hat-trick of Ironman 70.3 South Africa victories.

Ultimately though, the day was tinged with sadness, as two age-group athletes died and a further three suffered a cardiac arrest during the race. The two fatalities were male, aged 29 and 37, and their problems occurred during the swim section.

Elite results:

Top 3 Men

1.   Bart Aernouts (BEL) 4:03:52

2.   Ronnie Schildknecht (SUI) 4:06:22

3.   Tim Don (GBR) 4:10:39

Top 3 Women

1.     Jodie Swallow (GBR) 4:39:29

2.     Susie Hignett (GBR) 4:43:37

3.     Lucie Reed (CZE) 4:44:18