FROM AN­GRY BIRD TO GOAT?

A fourth con­sec­u­tive Hawaii win on the 13th of Oc­to­ber of this year could mean a change of nick­name for Switzer­land’s Daniela Ryf

220 Triathlon Magazine - - START -

There’s a story for­mer pro triath­lete Belinda Granger likes to tell about the 2007 Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship when an un­known com­peti­tor from Nor­folk cy­cles passed the line of es­tab­lished pro’s at the front of the race.

“Well, there goes this year’s win­ner,” Granger calls out and is met with a col­lec­tive ‘Who is she?’ “A new ath­lete I’ve been train­ing with,” the Aus­tralian replies. “And her strength is the run.”

That was the last the pick of the Iron­man women’s crop would see of Chrissie Welling­ton at close quar­ters that day, and it was also the first time she re­ally an­nounced her­self on the world stage. When Welling­ton quit un­de­feated in 2011, it ended an era of dom­i­nance that seemed un­likely to be re­peated for a gen­er­a­tion. Yet we’ve not left the decade and it could be usurped.

If Daniela Ryf wins her fourth con­sec­u­tive ti­tle in Hawaii in Oc­to­ber, does the Swiss – nick­named An­gry Bird – ac­tu­ally be­come the GOAT (Great­est Of All Time)? The acro­nym ap­pears in­creas­ingly in sport­ing dis­cus­sions from foot­ball to ten­nis to golf, and while it’s nu­ga­tory to com­pare gen­er­a­tions, it won’t stop us try­ing. If tri­umphant, she’ll be­come the sec­ond triath­lete to win four con­sec­u­tive Kona ti­tles, match­ing Paula Newby-Fraser’s feat from 1991 to 1994. Only New­byFraser (eight) and Natascha Bad­mann (six) will be ahead in to­tal Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship wins, and Ryf al­ready leads the way at the half dis­tance, with three world ti­tles in the past four years.

If she con­tin­ues her sub-nine hour streak at Hawaii it will also be her 11th time un­der the mag­i­cal mark, even man­ag­ing it twice in eight days in 2016. Only Yvonne van Vlerken has dipped un­der nine hours more times, although she’s been rac­ing over the dis­tance since 2007.

Yet it’s not just the num­ber of vic­to­ries, but the scale of dom­i­na­tion. Ryf has tasted de­feat just once at Iron­man, on her Big Is­land de­but to Mirinda Car­frae in 2014. Ryf avenged that loss in 2015, and in 2016 carved over five min­utes off Car­frae’s course record to win in 8:46:46. When she took the tape, she looked fresh enough to do it all again.

“I’m not do­ing the sport for records or to try and com­pare my­self against other ath­letes,” Ryf said when asked for this piece how much more she must achieve to be recog­nised as the great­est ever.

But while it speaks to a sin­gle­minded fo­cus on her own per­for­mance, it doesn’t stop de­lib­er­ate state­ments to ri­vals. When Car­frae flew to Poland for a rel­a­tively lowkey 70.3 re­cently, Ryf saw the op­por­tu­nity, joined the Aus­tralian on the start line, beat her into sec­ond by 22:51mins and out-split her in all three dis­ci­plines.

Not a bad marker in the run-in to Kona, where one more ti­tle must put her top of the pan­theon?

“Ab­so­lutely,” Granger agrees. “I’ve been in the sport 28 years and think she’ll go down as the best all-round long-dis­tance ath­lete ever if she wins... yet again.”

“With Ryf, it’s not just the num­ber of vic­to­ries, but the scale of dom­i­na­tion”

DANIEL SEEX

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