Daniela Ryf wins the Ironman World Championship for the fifth time

The soon to be 35-year-old triathlete from Solothurn dominates on a very tough course as she once did – despite the separation from her successful coach. Does her third career now also bring a flight of fancy?

Reports back impressively: the Swiss triathlete Daniela Ryf triumphs in St. George.

Tom Pennington/Getty

You’ve never seen Daniela Ryf cheer like this before. Hundreds of meters from the finish, she screamed out her joy several times, as if a heavy load had fallen from her. And after crossing the finish line, she stuck five fingers into the cameras, wide-eyed. Ryf had just won the Ironman World Championship for the fifth time, this time in St. George, Utah. The race was held outside of Hawaii for the first time as a replacement for the World Championships that had been postponed last fall.

“It was an incredibly emotional victory,” Ryf would say later, still trying to organize her thoughts. That’s an amazing amount of enthusiasm after a fifth world title. It stands for nothing less than a resurrection from the crisis.

The great pressure took away her joy

Daniela Ryf has long been the wonder woman of long-distance triathlon. In 2014 she won at her very first Ironman start; and the following year she began an incomparable series in Hawaii. She won almost non-stop, at one point streaking 13 wins in a row, all with mechanical precision based on superior wheel performance and rounded off with a strong barrel.

Her dominance culminated in the almost absurd in autumn 2018: in Hawaii she was stung by a jellyfish before the start, was only able to finish swimming with great pain and then delivered the masterpiece: she won confidently and even improved her own course record, right at twenty minutes. “I think to myself: how is this achievement even possible?” she asked about it in an interview with the NZZ.

In search of new goals, she oriented herself towards men; she wanted to push her body to new limits. These were quickly pointed out to her. The turning point was the Ironman World Championship 2019, when Ryf was only a shadow of herself due to a previously suffered gastrointestinal infection and finished 13th, not even as the best Swiss.

And then Corona came, health problems arose, she asked herself questions of meaning. How much Ryf was struggling with himself became clear last spring in a Interview with the Schweizer Illustrierte clear. In this she said that the great pressure in recent years had taken her joy. She revealed that she has also fallen in love with a woman, built a house and resumed studying food technology. She wanted more freedom, to be more at home.

And along the way, she revealed that she’s split from her coach, Brett Sutton, after eight years.

Brett Sutton was the mastermind behind Ryf’s achievements, his intuition for the human and the athlete was so fertile that she seemed irreplaceable. Ryf had won as a short distance triathlete, then as an Ironman triathlete – and now, she said, she was starting her third career.

Daniela Ryf shows it: In St. George she wins the Ironman World Championship for the fifth time.


The start of this career did not go smoothly. The victories were rare, and at the Ironman World Championships over half the distance last fall, she didn’t make it into the top ten for the first time, losing well over a quarter of an hour to the winner. Ryf then took a break of several weeks. And after that, she did what she now calls her body, a reset. The construction took seven months, and the races during this time were sobering: on the final running track, she was always passed to the back.

Isn’t it possible without your coach Brett Sutton? Is there a lack of feeling for the right breaks in a training plan? Ryf declined to comment on the reasons behind Sutton’s split. However, the tablecloth cannot be completely cut up, because Ryf says she is still in contact and also receives tips from him. And Sutton himself told the NZZ on Sunday that he had “an intense relationship” with Ryf.

Immediately before the Ironman World Championships in St. George, Ryf said: “Am I in top form? I don’t know, but I’m positive.”

On the marathon route, Ryf even extends the lead

The Solothurner, who will soon be 35, showed an appearance on Saturday like before. Despite being three minutes off the leader after a swim in the freezing lake, she went into the final run with a seven-minute lead – her time on the bike was nowhere near equal. And on the extremely difficult marathon with four long climbs, she was even able to extend her lead over British Kat Matthews. What appears after a formality was nothing but galley work. “The last ten kilometers were so brutal that I would have preferred to lie down,” Ryf said afterwards. And the defending champion Anne Haug, the strongest runner and ultimately third, said: “It was a dying in installments”.

For Ryf, however, it was the sporting resurrection. She noticed very well that many no longer believed in her. That motivated her immensely, she said. And so her third career could also become a flight of fancy. With a sixth Ironman World Championship title, she would catch up with her compatriot Natascha Badmann, who dominated the scene between 1998 and 2005. Only Paula Newby-Fraser has more world titles: eight.

triathlon St George, Utah (USA). Ironman World Championships (3.8km swim/180km bike ride/42.195km run). Men: 1. Kristian Blummenfelt (NOR) 7:49:16. 2. Lionel Sanders (CAN) 7:54:03. 3. Braden Currie (NZL) 7:54:19. – Women: 1. Daniela Ryf (SUI) 8:34:59. 2. Kat Matthews (GBR) 8:43:49. 3. Anne Haug (GER) 8:47:04.

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