Just when you think you're tough enough


Kristian Blummenfelt wins IRONMAN World Championship To Add To Olympic Gold in Triathlon

Following a two-year hiatus, the IRONMAN World Championship returned with the 2021 Intermountain Healthcare IRONMAN® World Championship presented by Utah Sports Commission. The 2021 edition of the event took place in St. George, Utah becoming the first location to host the event outside of Hawai`i since its origins in 1978. The Land of Endurance lived up to its billing with Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) and Daniela Ryf (CHE) being crowned as World Champions after what many are calling the toughest course they have ever raced.

More than 2,800 athletes started the days race including the impressive professional field. The 2021 Intermountain Healthcare IRONMAN World Championship presented by Utah Sports Commission kicked off with a 2.4-mile (3.86km) ROKA Swim Course, taking place in Sand Hollow Reservoir.

Followed by a challenging 112-mile (180.2km) FulGaz Bike Course that led athletes through stunning desert landscapes with 7,374 feet (2,248 meters) of elevation gain and an unforgettable climb through the Snow Canyon State Park at the 100-mile mark. The 26.2-mile (42.2km) HOKA Run Course will led athletes on two loops through St. George with 1,413 ft (431m) of climbing before culminating in an unforgettable finish line experience in the heart of downtown St. George.

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ST GEORGE, UTAH – MAY 07: Women’s champion Daniela Ryf of Switzerland and men’s champion Kristian Blummenfelt of Norway celebrate after winning the 2021 IRONMAN World Championships on May 07, 2022 in St George, Utah. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images for IRONMAN)

Blummenfelt earns coveted title
In the men’s race, Sam Laidlow (FRA) led the pro men out of chilly Sand Hollow Reservoir waters (64 degrees Fahrenheit) in 47:29 with Daniel Baekkegard (DEN) on his heels. The Kiwi pair Kyle Smith and Braden Currie were next with Florian Angert (FRA) in fifth. Olympic gold medalist Kristian Blummenfelt fell a surprising two minutes back on the swim.

Onto the 112-mile bike course through the hilly territory of Southwestern Utah, a lead pack established itself early on with Laidlow (who trains with three-time IRONMAN World Champion Jan Frodeno) Smith, Bakkegaard, Angert, and Currie. Five minutes back of the lead group, Cameron Wurf led a chase pack that saw Canadian Lionel Sanders move up through the field as well as Blummenfelt with the three coming into the second transition 4:30 behind the leaders.

On a picture-perfect day featuring warm, dry conditions, typical of the desert and a wind factor that never made a significant impact on the pro performances, Smith, Currie, and Angert were out onto the run course in the top three. Currie took the lead at 4 miles, as Blummenfelt, one of the day’s biggest movers on the run, continued to move through the field behind him.

The Olympic gold medalist, who started the run with over a four-minute deficit, started to make a dent in the leaders around the seven-mile mark. By the halfway point of the marathon, Blummenfelt had moved into second, entering a battle with Currie. At 19 miles, the Norwegian took the lead and never looked back claiming his first IRONMAN World Championship to add to his Olympic Gold Medal.

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It was a breakthrough performance for Christchurch-born Currie, 2021 IRONMAN New Zealand champion, who tried to hold onto second but was passed by Sanders in the last few hundred meters. While some predicted that Sanders, who thrives on these types of battles, wouldn’t have enough run real estate to pass Currie but he proved the pundits wrong and surged into second within view of the finish line.

Blummenfelt won the race handily with his 7:49:16 finish, joining the rare collection of athletes who have earned both an Olympic Gold Medal in triathlon and an IRONMAN World Championship win. For the young Norwegian it’s of its an incredible feat for only his second-ever full-distance IRONMAN race.

“That was a tough day—it was a brutal course. Luckily, I was able to jump on the Wurf train on the bike. On the run, I maybe started out faster than I should have. It was a relief to see that I was making up time over the second half.” Blummenfelt swam 49:40, biked 4:18:42, and ran 2:38:01.

Sanders reveled in his second silver medal performance after also finishing second in Hawai`i back in 2017.

“That was an amazing battle. It’s something I’ll never forget,” he said at the finish line. “I didn’t take anything for granted—this race my only goal was to execute my absolute best performance in the swim, the bike, and the run.”

Currie, a seasoned racer and past top-10 IRONMAN World Championship finisher reflected on the race at the finish line: “We had a fantastic group on the bike, it was so honest, consistent, and settled. I’m well-cooked, but stoked.” When all was said and done, the top five male finishers all clocked under 8 hours despite the difficult course.

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Top five professional men’s results:

1 Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) 49:40 04:18:42 02:38:01 07:49:16
2 Lionel Sanders (CAN) 52:07 04:16:13 02:42:25 07:54:03
3 Braden Currie (NZL) 47:37 04:16:31 02:47:11 07:54:19
4 Chris Leiferman (USA) 52:02 04:18:34 02:44:25 07:57:51
5 Florian Angert (DEU) 47:40 04:16:14 02:52:43 07:59:35

News and Notes from the Day

  • Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) became the first man to win a World Championship title in his IRONMAN World Championship debut since Belgian Luc Van Lierde in 1996. He is joined elite company becoming only the second triathlete to ever win both an IRONMAN World Championship and Olympic Gold Medal, joining Jan Frodeno (DEU)
  • Blummenfelt’s victory breaks a streak of six years in which a German athlete won the men’s World Championship (2014 – Sebastian Kienle; 2015 Jan Frodeno; 2016 Jan Frodeno; 2017 Patrick Lange; 2018 Patrick Lange; 2019 Jan Frodeno)
  • Braden Currie (NZL) raced his heart out to finish third at the Intermountain Healthcare IRONMAN World Championship presented by Utah Sports Commission in St. George, USA, the first time a Kiwi has claimed a podium finish since Cameron Brown achieved the feat back in 2005.
  • Mohammad Shamsuzzaman Arafat is the first Bangladeshi to finish an IRONMAN World Championship. He finished with a time of 11:32:10.
  • Over 2,800 starters for the 2021 edition of the IRONMAN World Championship, is the most in IRONMAN World Championship history.