Katrina Matthews wins Ironman Florida

Katrina Matthews Wins Ironman

Katrina Matthews Wins Ironman - Credit: Archant

Katrina Matthews wins Ironman Florida

Exmouth’s very own champion athlete, Katrina Matthews, has won Ironman Florida in a record-breaking 8 hours 40 minutes, thanks to the fastest swim, a 25mph average for the bike section and a sub-three-hour 26-mile marathon run.

Matthews prevailed in a head-to-head duel with top American Skye Moench in the final miles of the run. Her time is the third British women’s best of all time and a magnificent achievement for the Army Physiotherapy Officer.

In the warm waters beside Panama City Beach’s pier on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Matthews led the elite women’s swim, exiting the water with Meredith Kessler and Kelsey Withrow (both USA), 2:45 ahead of the race favourite and Ironman Champion Skye Moench (USA).

On the billiard table-flat, super-fast terrain of panhandle Florida, Matthews, who won the GB National 100-mile cycling time trial in August, so no mean cyclist, quickly established a decent lead.

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Moench went to work on the bike leg and, teaming up with Australian Renee Kiley, pulled that advantage back in the second half of the 112 mile course, coming into the bike/run transition T2 right behind Matthews.

The other British elite Ruth Astle (GB) had moved into fourth, breaking the bike course record, just three minutes back. Meredith Kessler was eight minutes down.

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Matthews was away first and set a fast pace, but Moench, whose running is her forte, chased her down in the first three miles. The pair ran side by side for a stretch, so there was all to play for.

A small gap formed that fluctuated between ten seconds and a minute for miles but by halfway, Matthews had established a clear lead and in the final third she maintained or even increased her pace and after 20 miles Moench was no longer able to stay in touch: in fact, the difference steadily rose to five minutes by the end.

Meanwhile, the American Meredith Kessler had run into third place with GB’s Ruth Astle in fourth. Matthews’ 2:58 marathon was a course record and overall her 8:40:50 was an Ironman Florida course record and places her as the third best British woman of all time.

Matthews’ amazing performance was not the only record.

Behind the fast racing up front, what captured the interest and hearts of supporters aroundthe world was local Florida man Chris Nikic who became the first athlete with Down’s Syndrome to finish a full distance Ironman triathlon event.

Nikic finished in 16:46 and he has been accepted as a new world record holder by Guinness World Records.

Katrina Matthews races for the professional BMC-Vifit Triathlon team and her next race is the de facto 2020 World Championships to be raced round the Daytona 500 racetrack, in Florida on 6 December.

Ironman Florida

Panama City Beach, Florida

November 7, 2020

Swim 2.4 miles / Cycle 112 miles / Run 26.2 miles

1. Katrina Matthews (GBR) 8:40:50

2. Skye Moench (USA) 8:46:35

3. Meredith Kessler (USA) 8:59:01

4. Ruth Astle (GBR) 9:04:03

5. Fiona Moriarty (IRL) 9:21:51

“I cannot believe what a tough day it was,” said Matthews.

“Having not done an Ironman since my first one a year ago, I forgot how hard they are and it was really tough, from the start, right the way through.

“I didn’t have anyone to play with on the bike and just had to crack on with the run. I dropped off a little and then managed to pull it back. I felt so good on the run and managed to go sub-three hours in the marathon, which was one of my goals.

“I am absolutely stoked to come back to racing in this Covid era and perform for the team.”

The victory is a continuation of the brilliant start Matthews made to her racing career in 2019, winning the European ETU Middle Distance championship.

Congratulations Katrina, from all of us back home.

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