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Posted: October 17, 2005

Athletics: Ford Ironman World Championships - The Ecstasy of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

“You have to have everything clicking to win Hawaii”

Kona, Hawaii (October 15, 2005) – In one of the most exciting and hottest races in the history of the World Ironman Championships, a young German named Faris left a cast of previous champions in his wake.

On the women’s side, five-time reigning champion Natascha Badmann had to overcome a 4 minute drafting penalty to prevent an Ironman newcomer from stealing the race out from under her. At least this time it wasn’t because of illegal drug use. (Last year, Badmann was robbed of the chance to cross the line first. Winner, Germany’s Nina Kraft, was later disqualified for taking the performance-enhancing drug EPO)


Switzerland's Natascha Badmann joins the company of Ironman legends in taking her sixth World Ironman title. (photo: Steve Bower)

Al-Sultan, 27, the first Muslim World Champion who happens to be sponsored by a brewery, dominated the race from the starting cannon, breaking the tape 5 minutes faster than his closest rival in 8:14:17.

The scorching heat and suffocating humidity forced the withdrawl of many of the favourites, including two-time champion Tim DeBoom of the US and Great Britain’s Simon Lessing. It wasn’t just the heat that caused defending champion Normann Stadler of Germany from dropping out. He suffered the bad fortune of three flat tires and a bee sting.

It looked like we’d be hearing the familiar sound of “Oh Canada” at the finish line as three-time defending champion Peter Reid, 36, of Victoria came within 3 minutes of the Al-Sultan at the 17 km mark of the run. Then the fleet-footed German found another gear. “Faris had an “on” day,” said Reid at the post-race news conference. “You have to have everything clicking to win Hawaii. When I saw him coming the other way through the Energy Lab, I knew he had it in the bag.”

Reid was passed with a mile and a half to go by a surging Cameron Brown of New Zealand, who came home in 8:19:36. The New Zealander’s motivation? “I just thought about the prize money. I have two kids to support, Peter doesn’t.”

Reid, who was sidelined for the better part of the year with illness as a result of overtraining, was happy with his third place finish. “Hey, I’ve never finished lower than fourth since I started racing seriously here in 1996. With the year I’ve had, I can’t complain about third place.”

Belgium’s Rutger Beke, who finished second to Reid at the 2003 Hawaii Ironman, took fourth in 8:22:04. Beke was recently cleared of an EPO doping allegation and said he nearly lost his focus at the 36 km mark on the run. “I asked a spectator how far ahead the other guys were.” He said: “I’m not going to tell you, you’re a cheat,” was the response he got from a spectator. An emotional Beke told the Citizen: “I started to get upset, and then I thought about what Lance Armstrong goes through every time he races the Tour de France. If I see that [spectator] again, he’ll be missing a few teeth.”

Colorado’s Cameron Widoff was the first American home, finishing fifth in 8:23:01.

Women’s winner Natascha Badmann, 38, joined the company of Ironman legends Mark Allen and Dave Scott, in notching the sixth World Ironman win of her career. An extraordinary feat for any athlete, but especially so for someone who was overweight and couldn’t even run around the block in her early 20s.

Did missing out on the experience of crossing the line first last year spur on her win? “I thought about it a lot. It probably made me train harder,” said Badmann, who overcame an almost 10 minute deficit to catch Australia’s Michellie Jones on the run.

“It hurt not to get what obviously what might have been last year. It was a bit of double-edged sword. Nina’s positive drug test cast our sport into the spotlight. Little old ladies were coming up to me in the supermarket and knew who I was.”

About her drafting penalty she said: “You know, the rules say you have 20 seconds to get away from another cyclist. I had such a bad swim that I was passing quite a few packs. I wear a Swiss watch. I know how long 20 seconds takes. I didn’t think I was drafting but I support their (the draft marshals) decision.”

Michellie Jones, the Olympic Silver Medallist in Sydney 2000, led for most of the race but faded to the more experienced Badmann in the closing miles. She finished in 9:11:51, more than 2 minutes behind Badmann. Fellow Australian Kate Major clicked off sub-7 minute miles in the marathon to capture third in 9:12:39.

Joanna Lawn, three time winner of Ironman New Zealand placed fourth in 9:14:53. The Olympic Champion from Athens, Austria’s Kate Allen, finished in 9:22:08 for fifth.

Heather Fuhr, of Stony Plain, Alberta, who finished second here last year, is consoled at the finish line by 8-time Hawaii Ironman Champion, Paula Newby-Fraser. (Photo: Steve Bower)

It was a disappointing day for last year’s second place winner, Heather Fuhr of Stony Plain, Alberta. She was forced to walk during the run, finishing in 25th spot in 10:03:06.

It wasn’t the year for Caledon, Ontario’s Lisa Bentley, either. She’d already won Ironman Germany and Ironman Australia this year and looked poised for a podium finish in Hawaii, but a serious stomach infection had her bedridden most of the week. She wasn’t even sure if she’d be able to start the race. She made it through the swim and bike but her coach Lance Watson insisted she drop out at the 16 km mark in the run.

“Lisa and Heather were two of the strongest in the field,” said Badmann. “They’re both so tough, they’ll come back. It was bad luck this year. Hawaii is such a different race. Anything can happen.”

The race claims another victim, Caledon, Ontario's Lisa Bentley, one of the pre-race favourites. She was forced to drop out at the 16kms mark with severe abdominal pains. (photo: Steve Bower)

Despite the scorching heat, race day conditions were among the best in the sport’s 28- year history. The feared island winds that have been known to literally knock cyclists off their bikes were relatively calm this year.

The Age Group division saw some of the deepest fields ever. Ottawa’s Chris Macknie finished in 10:56:17 for 150th in the 40-45 category. Zoe Panchen was 41st in the women’s 40-45 division, finishing in 11:47:03. James Brockbank, age 52, finished strongly in 12:57:47 for a 76th placing in his age division.

The 2005 Ford World Ironman Championship will be broadcast on NBC on Saturday, November 12 at 4:30 p.m. ET, following the Notre Dame-Navy college football game.

This article was also published in the Ottawa Citizen, reprinted with permission of Lynne Bermel

© Copyright 2005 Lynne Bermel

Lynne Bermel, a former world-ranked pro Ironman competitor, is a senior marketing & PR consultant living in Ottawa. She is also a freelance writer and TV sports show host. You can reach her at: lynnebermel@rogers.com.

You can access previous columns by Lynne at: LB_Columns

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