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4-time runner-up Lucy Charles-Barclay wins 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona

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Lucy Charles-Barclay wins the 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship in a record time of 8:24:31 in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now

The mermaid finally is the Queen of Kona — and in record time.

After four runner-up finishes in the past six years, super swimmer Lucy Charles-Barclay of Great Britain held off the fast-charging 2019 winner Anne Haug of Germany on Saturday to win the 2023 VinFast Ironman World Champion.

On the historic first “women’s-only” championship race in Kona, the 30-year-old Charles-Barclay also was the first woman to win the race from “cannon to tape” since 1979. That is when Lyn Lemaire won as the first-ever female Ironman competitor — and only female in that field.

On Saturday, Charles-Barclay crossed the finish line in 8 hours, 24 minutes, 31 seconds, surpassing the record for the grueling 140.6-mile race of 8:26:18 set in 2018 by “Angry Bird,” the five-time champion, Daniela Ryf of Switzerland.

“I am just over the moon,” Charles-Barclay said.

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While on the podium, she was doused with beer by Haug and third-place finisher Laura Philipp of Germany.

“There were times today where I thought I had it in the bag; and there were definitely times when I thought it would all unravel and I wouldn’t get the win,” Charles-Barclay said during the post-race press conference. “It took me five tries. … There were many times I thought I was always going to be the bridesmaid in Kona. Yeah. It’s nice to finally be the bride.”

She said she didn’t feel confident she was going to win until the very end.

“It really wasn’t until I was back on Aliʻi Drive,” she said. “I am still looking over my shoulder thinking Anne was going to be right there.”

The 40-year-old Haug started the run in 7th place, 12:14 behind Charles-Barclay. She ran a record 2:48:23 for the marathon, coming up just 3 minutes short. Haugʻs final time of 8:27:33 is the third best of all-time.

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“A race for the ages,” said broadcast commentator Mirinda Carfrae, a three-time Ironman World Champion from Australia who had held the run record of 2:50:26 that she set in 2014.

When asked if she was pleased with her finish, Haug said: “Absolutely. I couldn’t do anything better. Lucy was just unbeatable today.”

The 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship podium finishers in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. L-R: Second-place Anne Haug, winner Lucy Charles-Barclay and third-place Laura Philipp. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now

Philipp, 36, despite a disappointing swim, battled back for third place in 2:55:24. In the final miles of the race, she passed 25-year-old rookie Taylor Knibb of the United States, who was competing in her first Ironman and had never before run more than 18.92 miles. Knibb finished in fourth at 8:35:56 and fell to her knees.

Ryf finished fifth in 8:40:34 and defending champion Chelsea Sodaro was 6th. Sodaro had fallen to 20th during the bike, but ended with a strong run of 2:53:02.

To see a photo gallery of the race from start to finish, click here.

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But this day belonged to Charles-Barclay, starting from the first moment she jumped into Kailua Bay to start the 2.4-mile swim at 6:25 a.m. as the sun was rising.

  • Second-place finisher Anne Haug (right) hugs winner Lucy Charles-Barclay at the 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship in a record time of 8:24:31 in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship in a record time of 8:24:31 in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship in a record time of 8:24:31 in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now

Earlier this week, she said in order to win she likely would need to post a personal-best marathon. And she did, in a time of 2:57:38, more than 4 minutes better than her previous best.

This is despite recovering from a foot fracture she suffered earlier this year and a painful achilles that started at about the 2-mile mark of the run on Saturday.

With about 6 miles to go, and with a comfortable lead, Charles-Barclayʻs husband and fellow pro triathlete, Reece Barclay, said during the broadcast: “Daring to dream, but not just yet, but hopefully soon.”

He added: “My heart sinks. I hope she gets to the finish line. She deserves it.”

The tables were turned from 2019, when Haug won the championship in a time of 8:40:10, 6 1/2 minutes ahead of — you guessed it — second-place Charles-Barclay.

As expected, Charles-Barclay was first out of the water after the 2.4-mile swim in Kailua Bay. In rough seas, she finished in 49:36 seconds, just a tad slower than her own championship record time of 48:13, set in 2016.

She had built a 1:29 lead over a chase group of six triathletes, including Knibb. The rookie was second after the bike and remained in second until 7.4 miles to go, when she was passed by Haug.

Charles-Barclay also was first off the bike, with a lead of nearly four minutes over second-place Knibb, who had to serve a one-minute penalty for unintentional littering after her water bottle fell off her bike. She also had lost two water bottles off her bike earlier, but the officials did not see it.

For 36-year-old Ryf, it was her last race in Kona. She said she did her best to do well and enjoy it.

“I tried to catch Lucy, but no way today,” she said.

Ryf reflected on what the Big Island has meant to her.

“This island means so much to me, it made my career,” she said. “I will always love this island, and I am 100% sure I will come back to this island to cheer.”

She said she also plans to finally see the Parade of Nations, which she heard was super energetic this year with dancing, an extra positive vibe of an all-female field.

Because of her strict preparation and focus before races, she said: “I never got the chance to be there. I always just had to lie in my bed and wait.”

Lucy Charles-Barclay of Great Britain was first after the 112-mile bike in the 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now

UPDATE 3: Charles-Barclay leads VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona at start of marathon

Update 3 at bike finish at 11:50 a.m.: She’s still in first. Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay was first out of the water and now the 30-year-old is first off the bike on Saturday morning at the 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona.

As the wind picked up, Charles-Barclay completed the bike leg of the triathlon in 4:32:29 for a total of 5:24:33 entering the final leg: the 26.2-mile marathon. She averaged 24.77 mph on the bike.

Charles-Barclay, who is trying to finally win the world title after finishing four times as a runner-up, started the run with a 3:47 lead over second-place Taylor Knibb, 25, of the United States. Knibb had to stop at a tent to serve a one-minute penalty for unintentional littering after her water bottle fell off her bike .

Knibb also has never run a marathon in her life. Her longest previous run was precisely 18.92 miles.

American Taylor Knibb was second after the 112-mile bike in the 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now

Charles-Barclay is wearing Bib No. 2 for her second-place finish last year. She also was first place after the swim and bike, but winner Chelsea Sodaro of the United States passed her at the eight-mile mark of the run and ended up winning by nearly eight minutes. Charles-Barclay also finished in second place in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

In third place entering the marathon is Jocelyn McCauley, 10:46 behind Charles-Barclay. She is followed by Laura Phillipp (who finished in fourth-place last year despite a 5-minute penalty for drafting) and Lisa Norden, 38 of Sweden.

Rounding out the top 10 entering the marthon: No. 6 Daniela Ryf (five-time Ironman World Champion), No. 7 Anne Haug (last year’s third-place finisher), No. 8 Skye Moench, No. 9 Ruth Astle and No. 10 Sara Svensk.

Sodaro dropped to No. 20 with a bike of 4:50:35, more than 22 minutes behind Barclay-Charles.

Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay is first at the bike turnaround of the 2023 Ironman World Championship, 2:15 ahead of second-place Taylor Knibb. Screenshot

UPDATE 2: Great Britain’s Charles-Barclay leads at bike turnaround in Hawi

Update 2: Half-way Bike at 9:55 a.m.: Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay took the lead right from the start of the swim on Saturday morning, and was still in first at the halfway mark of the 112-mile bike leg of the 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona.

Charles-Barclay reached the turnaround point of the bike course in Hawi at 3:15:07, the 59.5-mile mark of the bike with an average pace is 24.95 mph.

Chasing her is American rookie Taylor Knibb, 2:15 behind. She stopped at the transition to ensure all her bottles are properly secured on her bike.

In third is five-time Ironman World Champion Daniel Ryf, who was 7:49 behind.

Ryf is known for being one of the fastest riders on the second half of the bike.

The rest of the top 10: Lisa Norden, Laura Philipp (who had caught up to the chasing groups after a disappointing swim), Jocelyn McCauley, Els Visser, , Anne Haug, Lotte Wilms and Lauren Brandon.

Defending champion Chelsea Sodaro was 15th at the turnaround, 12:34 behind.

“I have wanted it so bacly since fir.. taken five attmepts and finally get it..I donʻt think sunk in whatf..

“All Iʻve ever wanted was to win this race,”

Haug: “Fantastic day… Make sure you are fully fueld for run and run a really afst marathon.. One silve rna dnbrones..

third fastest time ever..

“We have so many high-class athelesets now, we push each other. You have to go fasater.. Just Tyalor brings whole differnt level to racing.. Really good for the sport.”

  • A woman professional triathlete on the 112-mile bike course at the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Megan Moseley/Big Island Now
  • A woman professional triathlete on the 112-mile bike course at the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Megan Moseley/Big Island Now
  • A woman professional triathlete on the 112-mile bike course at the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Megan Moseley/Big Island Now
  • A woman professional triathlete on the 112-mile bike course at the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Megan Moseley/Big Island Now
  • Women professional triathletes on the 112-mile bike course at the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Megan Moseley/Big Island Now
  • A woman professional triathlete on the 112-mile bike course at the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Megan Moseley/Big Island Now
  • A woman professional triathlete on the 112-mile bike course at the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Megan Moseley/Big Island Now

UPDATE 1: Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay first out of water in first leg of 2023 Ironman World Championship

Update 1: Swim at 7:45 a.m.: As expected, Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay was the first out of the water after the 2.4-mile swim in Kailua Bay, the first leg of today’s all-female VinFast Ironman World Championship.

In rough seas, Charles-Barclay finished in 49 minutes and 36 seconds, slower than the record time of 48:13 she set in 2016.

A chase group of six triathletes, including American rookie Taylor Knibb, were about 1 minute and 29 seconds behind her coming out of the water. The others in this group: Haley Chura, Lauren Brandon, Rebecca Clarke, Lotte Wilms and Rachel Zilinskas.

Knibb won the 2022 Women’s Ironman 70.3 World Championship. She finished 16th in the 202 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At about 6:25 a.m. on Oct. 14, the pro triathletes began a 2.4-mile swim in Kailua Bay for the first all-female VinFast Ironman World Championship. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now

Defending Ironman World champion Chelsea Sodaro was 12th out of the water in 54 seconds, 4:23 behind Charles-Barclay. Also in a group with Sodaro was five-time champion Daniela Ryf, 4:35 behind the leader. Last year, Ryf was about 5:30 behind out of the swim.

Next: The 112-mile bike leg.

“The bike course is a beauty and a beast,” said Laura Philipp, who was 26th out of the water at 56:49, during a prerace interview. “If you’re unlucky, there will be headwinds and sidewinds that make you feel like you are not going fast.”

  • 2022 Vinfast Ironman World Champion Chelsea Sodaro starts the 112-mile bike leg of the 2023 race in Kona on Oct. 14. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • Ironman World Championship rookie, American Taylor Knibb, starts the 112-mile bike leg of the 2023 race in Kona on Oct. 14. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • The women pro triathletes begin 112-mile bike leg of VInFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Megan Moseley/Big Island Now
  • The women pro triathletes begin 112-mile bike leg of VInFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Megan Moseley/Big Island Now
  • A woman pro triathletes begins 112-mile bike leg of VInFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Megan Moseley/Big Island Now
  • The women pro triathletes begin 112-mile bike leg of VInFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Megan Moseley/Big Island Now
  • The women pro triathletes begin 112-mile bike leg of VInFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Megan Moseley/Big Island Now
  • Lucy Charles-Barclay of Great Britain is first out of the water at Kailua Bay in a time of 49:36 for 2.4 miles to take the lead in the 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Screenshot
  • Spectators line the bike route of the 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship on Oct. 14, 2023 in Kona. Photo Credit: Megan Moseley/Big Island Now

And they’re off! The all-women’s VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona is underway

Original post at 6:45 a.m.: Downtown Kona was packed with people and filled with excitement early Saturday morning as daylight began to peak over Hualalai. Hawaiian music and Tahitian drums blared over the sound system.

It was about 78 degrees with a slight breeze at 6:25 a.m., when the pro triathletes began the 2.4-mile swim in Kailua Bay.

They were off for the first all-women’s VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona.

The best female professional and amateur triathletes in the world are now battling in a bid to be crowned the next champion — or just to finishing the grueling 140.6-mile course.

Live coverage of the race will air on Ironman Live, as well as Live L’Equipe for the French audience, and HR television and Sportschau for the German audience.

After the swim, the athletes run out of the bay and head to their bikes for the grueling 112-mile ride on Queen Ka‘ahumanu Highway through lava fields in the heat and with potentially strong crosswinds. The course takes competitors north to Hawī and then back to the Kailua Pier.

The iconic race culminates with a 26.2-mile run — a marathon – which again takes triathletes back to Ka‘ahumanu Highway where they once again battle the Kona heat as they run through Hawaiian Ocean and Technology Park just south of Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport. Those who complete the course will be cheered along Aliʻi Drive to cross the finish line where they started, at Kailua Pier.

As competitors make their way through the course, pro triathlete Sarah Crowley of Australia said coming out of the swim and onto the bike will come down to grit and determination.

“Anything can happen in this heat and the conditions of the day,” she said. “I wish everyone the best.”

  • Chelsea Sodaro, defending champion of the women’s Ironman World Championship, walks to the beach to start the 2.4 mile swim. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/BIg Island Now
  • Spectators line up before the start of the 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • At about 6:25 a.m. on Oct. 14, the pro triathletes began a 2.4-mile swim in Kailua Bay for the first all-female VinFast Ironman World Championship. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • Spectators cheer for the swimmers at the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • Age group competitors get lined up for 2.4-mile swim in Kailua Bay during VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • Age group competitors get lined up for 2.4-mile swim in Kailua Bay during VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • Spectators cheer for the swimmers at the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • The swim course on Kailua Bay during the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Screenshot
  • Spectators cheer for the swimmers at the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • Spectators cheer for the swimmers at the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now
  • The swim course on Kailua Bay during the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Screenshot
  • he swim course on Kailua Bay during the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Screenshot
  • The swim course on Kailua Bay during the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Screenshot
  • The swim course on Kailua Bay during the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Screenshot
  • The swim course on Kailua Bay during the VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Screenshot
  • Lucy Charles-Barclay of Great Britain is first out of the water at Kailua Bay in a time of 49:36 for 2.4 miles to take the lead in the 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Screenshot
  • Lucy Charles-Barclay of Great Britain is first out of the water at Kailua Bay in a time of 49:36 for 2.4 miles to take the lead in the 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship in Kona on Oct. 14, 2023. Screenshot

Pro competitors to watch include reigning Ironman World Champion 34-year-old Chelsea Sodaro of the United States.

The strong pro field is packed with worthy triathletes vying to take the championship from Sodaro. Among them is USA’s Sarah True, this year’s European Ironman Champion.

Also from the United States is 25-year-old Taylor Knibb, who is competing in the Ironman World Championship for the first time. She captured the VinFast Ironman 70.3 World Championship title (half the distance of the Ironman) in Finland this year.

Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf – nicknamed “Angry Bird” due to her steely determined face during races – will attempt to win back her title after failing to defend it in 2022, finishing a disappointing 8th. Ryf has won five Ironman World Championships. She also holds the race’s record for the best female finish, at 8:26:18 in 2018.

Last year’s podium finishers, Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay, who often is out of the water first, and Germany’s Anne Haug also may be in contention at the end.

Other pros to watch are Germany’s Laura Philipp, Sweden’s Lisa Norden and Great Britain’s Kat Matthews.

There has been talk about how this year’s field of pro triathletes is the strongest in the history of the championship race. During Thursday’s press conference, the pro-women celebrated the female power on the Kona course and wished their opponents nothing but the best.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t battle it out for the top spot today.

“I think it’s going to be the toughest race we’ve had on the island, obviously the conditions play into it, but definitely the field we have this year is going to be the biggest factor on the day,” Charles-Barclay said Thursday. “Having strong athletes across all the disciplines you’re just going to have to put on the best day that you can across every discipline of the race and just see how you end up at the end.”

Hawai‘i Island is represented on race day with 10 local competitors:

  • Brenda Avery, 58, of Kailua-Kona
  • Brenda Bettencourt, 64, of Kailua-Kona
  • Laura Birse, 45, of Hilo
  • Sonja Correa, 44, of Kailua-Kona
  • Greta Friesen, 36, of Hōnaunau
  • Esra Lynch, 55, of Kamuela
  • Lynn Mattix, 42, of Kailua-Kona
  • Skye Ombac, 27, of Hilo
  • Monica Price, 51, of Kailua-Kona
  • Carleigh Rittel, 35, of Kailua-Kona

Editor’s Note: Big Island Now will provide updates and final coverage of the race.

Cammy Clark
Cammy Clark works for Pacific Media Group as an editor and news reporter. She has more than 30 years of journalism experience, previously working for the Miami Herald as the Florida Keys Bureau Chief and sports writer, the Washington Post, St. Petersburg Times, United Press International, the Orange County Register and WRC-TV/George Michael Sports Machine. She grew up in New Hampshire and studied print journalism at American University in Washington, D.C., where she was the sports editor for the college newspaper, The Eagle.
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