Fifty-five Belgian athletes will plunge into the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean on Saturday morning from Kona Beach in Hawaii, USA, for the final of the Ironman Triathlon World Championship.
They include one professional, Bart Aernouts (35), the current men’s deputy champion.
As in the 40 previous editions of the event, the athletes will start off with a 3.8-km swim, followed by a 180-km cycle race and a 42.195-km foot race.
Last year, Germany’s Patrick Lange retained the title he won in 2017, clocking 7 hours, 52 minutes and 39 seconds (7:52:39) and bettering the previous world record by over 9 minutes. Bart Aernouts also beat the old record, with a time of 7:56:41, ahead of Scotland’s David McNamee, who placed third in both 2017 and 2018.
All three are among the big favourites this year, along with Germans Jan Frodeno, winner in 2015 and 2016, and Sebastian Kienle, who took gold in 2014.
Former Australian professional rower and cyclist Cameron Wurf, holder of the cycling record (4:09:06), achieved a time of under three hours in the marathon this season, for the first time in his career, and could be another serious contender for the title. So could Britain’s Alistair Brownlee, double Olympic champion, who is taking part for the first time in the Ironman event.
Among the women, Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf (32), who has won gold in the past four editions, is expected to face her strongest challenge from her double runner-up, Lucy Charles-Barclay of Britain, by far the best swimmer in the pack. However, Ryf has been unbeaten for the past five years and just won her 5th Ironman 70.3 (Half Ironman) title in September in Nice.
Last year’s third-place winner, Anne Haug, and fellow German Laura Philipp, who set a world record of 8:34:57 in Barcelona in 2018, will also be trying to end Ryf’s winning streak.
About 100 professionals and some 1,800 amateurs in various age categories qualified for the world’s biggest long-distance triathlon event by finishing in one of top slots at one of the circuit’s 20 events, held in various parts of the world. Most of them are motivated, not by the prize money or the media coverage, but by the desire to exceed one’s limits and finish the race in the best time possible.
The 2019 edition of the Hawaii Triathlon will kick off on Saturday at 6.25 a.m. (6.25 p.m. Belgian time) for the men, while the women will follow five minutes later, at 6.30 a.m. The first finishers are expected to arrive around 2.15 p.m. (2.15 a.m. Belgian time on Sunday).