The Kona Ironman World Championships 2022


05.10.22 at 10:18 am

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Ironman returns to the Big Island!

For the first time in the history of triathlon, the Ironman World Championships took place away from Hawaii in 2021 (well, the 2021 championship actually happened in 2022) taking place in St George, Utah. The 2020 edition was cancelled due to COVID and the 2021 edition was moved for the same reason so this year is the first time the race has taken place at one of the spiritual homes of triathlon since 2019.


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A history of the event

The first Ironman World Championships took place in 1978 on the island of Oahu where it was held until 1980. The course comprised the Waikiki Roughwater Swim, the Around-Oahu Bike Race (originally a two-day event), and the Honolulu Marathon – the winner was declared ‘The Iron Man’. The event got a bit too big for Oahu and in 1980 was moved to Kona. The distances from the original event in Oahu were kept the same, a 3.8km swim, 180km on the bike and a 42.2km marathon distance run – a big day out!

Get up to speed-The Kona Ironman World Championships

Since the birth of Ironman, other events have sprung up across the world but the world champion was always crowned in Kona. Since the 1970s it’s probably fair to say that the Ironman World Championship has become harder and harder to win. In the first year of competition, the race was won in a time of 11:46:58 for the men and 12:55:38 for the women. By the turn of the century this had gone down to 8:21:01 and 9:26:17 for men and women respectively. The current records are held by Jan Frodeno, who won the men’s race in 2019 with a time of 7:51:13, and Daniella Ryf, who won the women’s race one year earlier in a time of 8:26:18.


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Since the race was moved to Kona, the course has remained mostly the same. The swim takes place in Kailua-Kona Bay, the bike is a ride across the Hawaiian lava desert to Hāwī and back and the run is along the coast of the Big Island from Keauhou to Keahole Point and back to Kailua-Kona, finishing on Aliʻi Drive.

Controversy and disagreements

No large sporting event would be complete without a series of arguments, a bit of controversy and a lot of disagreeing and Ironman worlds are no different. One such controversy was the Ironman lottery saga – which resulted in Ironman’s parent company, “the WTC ”, being handed a near 3 million dollar fine by Florida’s state court. The crux of the issue was that lotteries that you charge for are illegal in Florida, because Ironman was charging $50 per entry into their ‘Kona lottery’, they were hit with a fine. The funny part was, the attorney acting for the state of Florida in the court case was an eight time Ironman finisher!

In recent years there has also been discussion about celebrity and legacy entries. The original idea, and spirit, of the Ironman World Championships is that it would be a competition between the best of the best – yet slots are taken up by famous people who are there purely for…being famous.

Finally, there’s the cost. The reality is, amongst amateurs, Kona isn’t a championship of the best – merely a championship of the richest. It’s an obscenely expensive race to take part in and it’s prohibitively expensive for the majority of athletes. The cost issue has even filtered its way into the pro ranks with outspoken pro, Joe Skipper, electing not to race this year despite being a major contender. On the social media post explaining his decision, a large number of pros commented expressing similar feelings.

Who are the contenders?

On the men’s side the field should still be quite deep, even with a number of athletes missing out because of cost related issues. Great Britain’s biggest hope is a resurgent Alastair Brownlee who will be hoping he has enough cycling firepower with him from the swim to gap the Norwegians. The brit has good form coming into Kona, recently setting a British record in Sweden. The favourite for the race has to be reigning Ironman and Olympic champ, Blummenfelt. .

On the women’s side, it’s tough to look past Ryf. She has been dominant over recent years and at the recent Collins Cup in Slovakia was in fine form as she made Flora Duffy look like an amateur. Britain’s best hope of upsetting Ryf, according to the form book, is Fenella Langridge, who had a brilliant race at Challenge Roth. Second place athlete in St George, Kat Matthews, has struggled for form since her Sub8 challenge – she will hope that she can turn that around in Kona.

When can I watch it and how?

The race is available to watch on the Ironman official live stream available via their Facebook page. It’s free to watch, or at least it has been in previous years to now, and usually starts around 6:30am local time. In the past, there has been criticism that Kona has been difficult to watch but the free feed on Facebook of recent years has generally performed well. On occasion, there has been more coverage given to the men’s race than the female race but again, this is improving!

Even though Kona is no longer the most important non-drafting race on the calendar for pros, it has a special place in triathlon history which is why so many are willing to stomach the cost to experience it! Hopefully this year will add to this race’s great past. With big names dropping out due to cost and other races taking precedence, it’ll be interesting to see if 2022 is seen as the beginning of the end for Kona when we look back in years to come.

If you’re planning on a triathlon race abroad, don’t forget that we offer bespoke triathlon travel insurance which will cover the entirety of your trip. We offer single trip and annual multi trip options, both of which cover competitive triathlon as standard. If you want to cover your bike for damage caused by an airline an during your races, you will need to take out our bicycle insurance If you’re not sure what you need, just give our friendly support team a call. They are easy to get through to and are always happy to assist.

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