Everything went so well for triathlete Laura Philipp. Her dream of winning the Ironman Hawaii came true after she had swum 3.86 kilometers and cycled 50 kilometers great frustration. "It was unfair," she says.
When sensational winner Chelsea Sodaro from the USA (8:33:46 hours), second-placed Briton Lucy Charles-Barclay (7:50 min.) and Anne Haug as third (8:35 min.) beamed for the winning photo, Philipp ran in the Background finished fourth. And with the big gap of 16:44 minutes to Sodaro.
Philipp, 35, who finished fourth on her Hawaii debut in 2019, was already considered a favorite at the catch-up World Cup in Utah in May, but fell ill with Corona shortly before. In June, she then impressed in Hamburg with the fastest Ironman time ever achieved by a woman (8:18:20 hours). So now Hawaii.
Her great strength is cycling, Philipp can also run the marathon extremely fast. When it comes to swimming – she only learned to crawl properly ten years ago – she has improved. And that was visible. After 50:57 minutes, Charles-Barclay left the water as the top swimmer in the lead. Almost seven minutes later, Philipp too, roughly at the same time as Anne Haug and Daniela Ryf from Switzerland. "Perfect," says Philip.
They started the 180-kilometer bike course, caught up, and pushed the pace. Almost 5:30 minutes behind at kilometer 50. And then a referee from the motorcycle showed her: five minutes time penalty. “She had accompanied our group for a long time. It came out of nowhere for me,” says Philipp. "I asked her why because I didn't feel guilty. And because the rules are very important to me.” As a strong cyclist, Philipp is dependent on the rules being observed.
And they look like this: There is a general ban on slipstreaming on medium and long distances. How big the distance has to be varies. In Ironman races there is twelve meters or six wheel lengths between the front edge of both front wheels. However: Even at twelve meters, the man behind saves a few forces. An athlete has 25 seconds to overtake. And: If you are overtaken, you are not allowed to counterattack immediately, but only when you are twelve meters behind. He is also not allowed to stay in the slipstream box of those twelve meters. Violations of the rules are punished with five-minute penalties - to sit in a penalty tent. And that's exactly where Philipp had to persevere.
Philipp didn't get an explanation. Not on the way, not at the finish. But the five minutes speak clearly for slipstreaming. Consequence: The group was gone.
Philipp, who was not the only one with such a penalty, says: "I felt I was treated unfairly. The penalty ruined my day.” She should have performed a small miracle in the final marathon. But that was not possible. Especially since she drove alone most of the time after the penalty and invested a lot of energy to save something. But the group in front drove too hard.
And mentally, too, the punishment did something to her. "As if the ground was pulled away," she says. In the end it was clear: This is probably the end of the dream. "It's sad when you have so few chances and it ends like this."
Now some might say: a bad loser. But that's not the case. Philipp paid tribute to the winner and raved about her performance. And it's a fact: she doesn't need slipstreaming. Which doesn't mean it can't happen.
Philipp: "I think the problem is a bit that the referees are alone out there and can make decisions as they wish." They decide by feel, by eye. Her suggestion: "For example, a cockpit camera so that other people can understand the decision."
There is also currently a development called Race Ranger. “There are sensors attached to every bike that have lights. If you get too close to someone in a race, the sensor will flash.”
She finds the current basis for decision-making to be – to put it mildly – difficult. "It's arbitrary. Today, with the woman, it was one step harder. Nobody else was there, but the influence it has on the course of the race and the result is huge.” Five minutes is a world, especially at a World Championship.
In general, Philipp is in favor of time penalties, including high time penalties, so that they act as a deterrent. "But I have to nibble on that for now," she says. Sleep first. "And watch the men's race on Saturday with a cocktail in hand."