A very eagerly awaited World Championships this weekend with the world's best females out in Kona. The controversial male and female split was soon forgotten as people's attention turned to racing.
The start list is arguably the strongest it has ever been, with past champions, record holders, and up-and-coming talent littered throughout the field. In previous years, there has been an athlete that goes in as the favourite, but this year, several athletes could take the crown. The race could also play out in many ways, making predicting a top 5 difficult.
HUUB's Anne Haug (GER) is considered by many as one that could take victory. In 2023, she podiumed at every race she entered and delivered one of the greatest-ever long distance performances at the PTO Open in Ibiza, where she obliterated the field. She goes in with experience to her name, having won the race in 2019 and finished on the podium on three other occasions. If Haug is within touching distance going into T2, there isn't anyone in the field who will be able to outrun her.
Also flying the flag for HUUB is Kat Matthews (GBR), who races at Kona for the first time. A horrific bike crash in the month before last year's race meant she couldn't make her debut, and it nearly ended her career. It will be a defining moment if she can come back 12 months later and take the win. Matthew's finished 2nd to Daniela Ryf (SUI) at the 2022 Ironman St. George World Championships, which shows she has what it takes to compete on the world stage. She also finished 2nd at this year's 70.3 World Championships, beating many of those on this weekend's start line. Matthew's also recorded a 7.31 Ironman distance time at the SUB7 SUB8 event back in 2022. Since then, her swimming performance has improved, and she has consistently delivered on the bike and run, making her a favourite of many.
Ruth Astle (GBR) will be a relative 'dark horse'... She has had an injury-plagued 2023, but her 5th place at the 2022 Ironman St. George World Championships shows she can be up there at the front of the race. Astle is known as one of the strongest riders in the field, so if she can get into the mix at the start of the bike, she will no doubt shape the race's outcome for herself and others.
The other big names to mention are Daniela Ryf (SUI), the 5-time Champion and course record holder, who is undoubtedly the GOAT of long distance triathlon. When she is at her best, few athletes can challenge her. She was undefeated at Kona between 2015 and 2018 but has recently struggled to find consistency in her form.
Lucy Charles-Barclay (GBR) has finished runner-up on four separate occasions, but this year, she could well benefit from the presence of Taylor Knibb (USA). The young American romped to victory at the 70.3 World Championships and is known for her swim-bike prowess. Both will play the same cards in Kona, and it will be a question of how much gap they will have over the chasers, who will almost certainly be eating into their lead at the latter stages of the race. Knibb will also be entering the unknown, having never raced the distance.
2022 Champion Chelsea Sodaro (USA) should certainly not be forgotten because she showed 12 months ago that she could beat the best and will be intent on repeating her victory this weekend. Likely to be alongside her in the race will be Laura Philip (GER). Her 4th place in 2022 could have been significantly different if it hadn't been for the 5 minute drafting penalty.
All in all, this weekend, we are set to see some incredible racing where racing dynamics and tactics will shape the race's outcome. It could go down as the greatest race in the sport's history!