By Bill Plock
Kailua Kona–Tim O’Donnell (T.O), Ben Hoffman and Chris Leiferman finished second, fourth and tenth in Saturday’s IRONMAN World Championships respectively. T.O. became only the fourth person in history to break the 8 hour mark finishing in 7:59:40, 8 minutes behind champion, Jan Frodeno who set a course record of 7:51:13 for his third title in five years.
It would be hard to fathom a better second place under any circumstances. T.O. would’ve won on most any other day, but he faced a very hungry, two time world champion in Jan Frodeno. T.O. told 303’s Rich Soares at the finish line that he was very pleased to go sub 8 at the age of 39 and was pleasantly surprised his nagging foot injury didn’t hurt is marathon (stay tuned for entire interview and future podcast).
At the press conference following the event (which you can hear the entire, very entertaining press conference on 303 in the very near future) Jan eluded to not taking anything for granted and racing relaxed with a nothing to lose attitude. In 2017 he injured himself and walked a good bit of the marathon–but still finished. In 2018 Jan didn’t compete so he put everything he had into coming back in 2019.
But T.O. had his own motivation and some doubt. At the pre-race press conference T.O., who battled a couple of injuries all summer, admitted he wasn’t sure what to expect and hoped there might be a silver lining of freshness from not being able to train as much as usual. To have his best day as a pro, in the most competitive conditions, a bit unsure of his fitness, was an inspiring performance.
Ben Hoffman, with a blistering time of 8:02:52, smashed his second place time from 2014 by nearly 17 minutes on a course no more favorable than last year (perhaps more than 2014) when Patrick Lange set the course record, now broken. In fact the winds were stronger this year and there was even rain on the bike course—which Jan blamed newcomer, Britain’s, Alistair Brownlee for “ordering” as he seems to triumph in the rain quite often. The two time gold medalist, Brownlee finished 21st despite a flat and an overall time of 8:25:03.
In between Hoffman and Brownlee, Longmont’s Chris Leiferman finished tenth in his Kona debut finishing at 8:13:37.
It was a great day for Colorado with Andy Potts finishing 14th, Joe Gambles at 36th and Kennett Peterson started the bike but ran into some trouble and pulled out. Boulder Ironman winner, Matt Russell (who frequently is in Colorado) finished 17th.
For the women, “sometime” Coloradan Heather Jackson (8:54:44) finished fifth behind winner Anne Haug of Germany, 8:40:10.
Other Colorado pro’s, Lesley Smith finished in 22nd, Danielle Mack was 32nd and three time World Champion, Mirinda Carfrae pulled out on the bike course.
52 athletes from Colorado towed the line on Saturday and the state with the highest per capita athletes fared very well!