BACK-TO-BACK: UNITED STATES TAYLOR KNIBB DEFENDS HER TITLE AT THE 2023 VINFAST IRONMAN 70.3 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TRIATHLON IN LAHTI, FINLAND
LAHTI, Finland (Aug. 26, 2023) – American Olympian Taylor Knibb captured her second VinFast IRONMAN® 70.3® World Championship title in Lahti, Finland, on Saturday. After exiting the ROKA swim course in the top-3, Knibb quickly gained the lead on the FULGAZ bike course and never looked back. Putting in a dominating performance, Knibb successfully defended her title as World Champion and did so with a new IRONMAN 70.3 best time of 3:53:02, beating out the previous best time of 3:53:03 set by Germany’s Laura Phillip in 2022.
On the shores of Lake Vesijärvi in Lahti, Finland today, triathlon fans worldwide got to witness the return of the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship to European soil. Female professionals and age-groupers alike took to the waters of Teivaa Harbour, ready to test themselves not only against the world’s best, but the region’s beautiful swim, bike, and run courses.
Pre-race conversations were dominated by two women: The fast-rising American star Taylor Knibb, and the sport’s reigning Queen—Daniela Ryf of Switzerland. Knibb is the youngest woman to ever represent the U.S. in triathlon at the Olympics (Tokyo 2020) and has wowed fans in each one of her appearances in triathlon since—yet she hasn’t had the chance to race an “on” Ryf (the five-time IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion and five-time IRONMAN World Champion). Both Knibb and Ryf have enjoyed considerable success this year and came into this race flying high.
Taylor Knibb took off out of Teivaa Harbour, with a group of about six others forming behind her in a lead pack. Lucy Buckingham (GBR) took over the lead about a third of the way into the 1.93 km (1.2-mile) ROKA swim course in Lake Vesijärvi, with Knibb staying hot on her feet. Brazil’s Pamela Oliveria was in the mix at the front of the swim as well.
Behind the lead pack of about seven, many of the pre-race favorites all formed the chase pack: Holly Lawrence (GBR), Kat Matthews (GBR), Paula Findlay (CAN), Daniela Ryf, Emma Pallant-Browne (GBR), and Laura Phillip. Lawrence swam aggressively, trying to bridge the gap to the lead swimmers, but they remained up front.
Buckingham was out of the water first in 24:43, with Knibb and Oliviera close behind her, just two seconds back. The second pack exited the water a minute and a half back, including Lawrence, Salthouse (AUS), Matthews, Ryf, Pallant Browne, Findlay, and Tamara Jewett (CAN).
After a lightning-fast transition, Knibb surged to the front almost immediately in her newly confident TT bike position. She continued to put on a show on the rolling, rural bike course taking in Lahti’s pastoral countryside. Imogen Simmonds surprised with her aggressive move to the front and ability to hold second for much of the bike course. Ryf, Findlay, Matthews, and Pallant-Browne stayed together as a chase pack, but all began to lose time to the hard-charging Knibb as the 90 km (56 mile) bike course unfolded.
Simmonds held her own, but it was Knibb at the front of the race all day long. The chasers’ gap only increased as the kilometers clicked by, to well over three minutes at the end of the bike. As Knibb began to repeat just what she did in St. George last year, fans began to wonder how large her buffer would be this year.
Knibb jumped off the bike with a split of 2:07:52, with Simmonds 2:09 back and Matthews, Pallant Browne, Ryf and Findlay rolling in at just over 5 minutes back.
Knibb made short work of T2 and was off in under 40 seconds—almost 30 seconds faster than Simmonds, next in line. She demolished the first 5 kilometers of the two-loop, 21.1 km (13.1-mile) HOKA run course in under 19 minutes, setting a blistering pace from the get-go. Her run form was spot-on, despite having struggled with a foot injury late last year.
With only Matthews and Pallant-Browne running in Knibb’s ballpark, the two Brits battled it out for third. Matthews held her own and then, with her strong, consistent pace, was able to overtake Simmonds late in the run for second.
Knibb surely knew the crown was hers long before she turned towards the famous Salpausselka Ski Jumps. The final taste of victory was sweeter though as she entered the finish chute knowing a repeat title was hers. On the heels of a 1:18 half marathon split, Knibb finished with an impressive 3:53:02 (her fastest IRONMAN 70.3 finish time yet) and heaps of pride on a day that rewarded her hard work, patience, and determination.
Top five professional women’s results:
|1. Taylor Knibb||USA||00:24:45||02:07:52||01:18:05||03:53:02|
|2. Kat Matthews||GBR||00:26:06||02:11:42||01:16:38||03:57:05|
|3. Imogen Simmonds||CHE||00:24:53||02:10:00||01:20:29||03:57:56|
|4. Emma Pallant-Browne||GBR||00:26:17||02:11:47||01:17:52||03:58:35|
|5. Paula Findlay||CAN||00:26:12||02:11:45||01:19:58||04:00:3|
“It’s a long day, it’s an IRONMAN 70.3 and I’m just grateful to make it to the finish line and grateful to be here,” Knibb said at the finish line. “Some people were questioning my decision to race, but racing excites me and I’m just happy to be here.”
“I had a really good day. They don’t come always,” said Kat Matthews. “I’m a little disappointed that Taylor just ‘ticked off’ this race. I’m excited to see what she does next! I had full focus on this race, but all I’m thinking about now is [IRONMAN World Championship] Kona next month.”
The men take to the 2023 VinFast IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship Sunday. The racing gets underway at 7:30 a.m. EEST with the professional men taking to the water first followed by the PC/ID and Handcycle division at 7:32 a.m. then the age-group athletes will begin at 7:40 a.m. Live race day coverage of the professional men will air on Outside Watch starting at 7:00 a.m. EEST (12:00 a.m. ET). Be sure to also follow along all of IRONMAN’s official social media channels.
STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF IRONMAN
“On a day meant to celebrate the spirit and achievements of our IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship athletes, we are devastated to share the passing of one of our race competitors. The athlete was extracted from the water approximately halfway into the swim, received immediate medical assistance by water safety first responders, and continued to receive treatment on shore by emergency personnel, including two event doctors. Despite all medical efforts, the athlete passed away. Our thoughts and care are with the family and friends of the athlete, who we will continue to support as they go through this very difficult time. We also have great appreciation for the medical and safety teams who worked quickly to provide the athlete with medical support. Out of respect for the family’s privacy, we will have no further comment.”