Kailua-Kona was buzzing before the sun rose Thursday morning, with about 2,500 triathletes and thousands of volunteers and spectators ready for the return of the Ironman World Championship.
After the world-class event was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the crowds were back.
Eight-time Ironman World Champion Paula Newby-Fraser, the “Queen of Kona,” said on the Ironman broadcast that the town was so full of excitement it “almost felt like a earthquake had struck.”
The 140.6-mile triathon includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and marathon (26.2-mile run). For the first time there is two-race format. Today, the pro women, womenʻs age groups and some menʻs age groups race. On Saturday, the pro men and the rest of the menʻs age groups compete.
At precisely 6:25 a.m., after the blowing of the conch shell and the playing of the National Anthem and the Hawaiian national anthem, a field of 45 professional women began the out-and-back swim in Kailua Bay.
While the water looked calm from the pier, the conditions were choppy with swells.
As expected, first out of the water was Lucy Charles-Barclay at 50 minutes, 57 seconds. It was slower than her record finish for the swim in 48:14 n 2018. She had built a 41 second lead over Lauren Brandon, the second woman out of the water. Brandon is a former NCAA All-American swimmer from the University of Nebraska.
The third-place finisher in the swim was Rebecca Clarke of New Zealand, just three seconds behind Brandon.
Five-time Ironman World Champion and race favorite Daniela Ryf of Switzerland was 14th out of the water in 57:52, but she holds the female record for the 112-mile bike course with 4:26:07 in 2018.
Editorʻs Note: Big Island Now will provide updates as the race progresses.