Coming off a dominating performance earlier this year at Ironman Arizona, nobody was counting out Faris Al-Sultan as a Kona favorite. And it seemed only fitting that on a day of constitutional referendum elections in Iraq, the son of an Iraqi father would snag the sports most prestigious prize in its 29th edition.
The 27-year-old Al-Sultan, who was raised in Munich, Germany after his father settled there and married his German mother, is somewhat of an anomaly in the world of professional triathlon. Hes one of the very few pro triathletes that trains without a coach. And, as a Muslim, hes sponsored by a Munich brewery and supports the U.S. led invasion of Iraq, even though the majority of Germans vehemently oppose the American presence in Iraq.Marco Garcia/Getty Images Al-Sultan raced the whole event in a short-course style swimsuit.
Al-Sultan took advantage of a 49:54 swim, the third fastest of the day, to set the tone of getting out early and not looking back. On a day the wind gods smiled on Kona and delivered calm conditions along the notoriously windy Queen K Highway, Al-Sultan cranked out a sizzling 4:25:24 bike split that left a group of chasers, including former champ Peter Reid, five minutes off the back.
Reid turned a 4:27:51 bike split himself in trying to match Al-Sultan but may have paid the price as Cameron Brown, with a strong 2:50:13 marathon overtook Reid with just miles to go. Al-Sultans 2:54:51 marathon was more than enough to hold off the chasing runners as he crossed the finish line in 8:14:17, the seventh fastest time in history and certainly one of the fastest in recent years.
Last years winner, Normann Stadler, a big pre-race favorite, was plagued with flat tires and bad luck. After his third flat tire and a bee sting to boot, the German triathlete who trains much of the year in San Diego, just sat on the side of the road, tears streaming from his face. The Ironman can be a very unforgiving experience.
The Womens Race
The womens race looked like it might be Australian Michellie Jones day to steal the show as a rookie. But rookies dont traditionally win on the hot lava fields and Switzerlands Natascha Badmann, 38, wasnt about to concede her crown that easily.
Jones took nearly eight minutes out of Badmann over the 1.2 mile swim and only conceded two minutes on the bike. To be down nearly six minutes at the end of the 112 mile ride, was a new experience for Natascha who usually lays down the law with punishing bike splits.Marco Garcia/Getty Images Natascha shows her winning form on the bike.
But Natascha learned she can also run well as the chaser and when the two passed each other, in opposite directions, within a mile of the run turnaround, Jones knew it was just a matter of time. Jones, whos been one of the most dominating women triathletes over short course distances for the past 15 years, couldnt match Badmanns experience and endurance. Turning in a 3:18:13 marathon might have normally been all she needed, but Badmanns 3:06:25 was just too much as she powered to a 9:09:30 win, 2:21 ahead of Jones. Jones was glad the marathon wasnt any longer, as another Australian, Kate Major, who also currently resides in San Diego, turned in a 3:02:19 marathon to close within a minute of Jones to finish in 9:12:39.And, finally, to shed a little praise on some of our employees, Active.coms Dave Easa, whos been teetering around 10 hours for the last couple years in Kona, finally got his sub 10-hour performance with a very respectable 9:54:29. And Mitch I-havent-been-training Thrower finished in 11:02. Thrower, a co-founder of Racegate.com, one of the companies that formed The Active Network, completed his 11th Hawaii Ironman with that performance. Thrower also posted a blog at ironmitch.blogspot.com/
1. Faris Al Sultan (Germany) 8:14:17
2. Cameron Brown (New Zealand) 8:19:36
3. Peter Reid (Canada) 8:20:04
4. Rutger Beke (Belgium) 8:22:30
5. Cameron Widoff (USA) 8:23:01
1. Natascha Badmann (Switzerland) 9:09:30
2. Michellie Jones (Australia) 9:11:51
3. Kate Major (Australia) 9:12:39
4. Joanna Lawn (New Zealand) 9:14:53
5. Kate Allen (Austria) 9:22:08
For complete results, including all age groups and splits, visit www.ironmanlive.com.And for additional info and photos, please check out Triathlete Magazine's Ironman wrap up story.