Best race ever, says champion

Ironman winner vows to return to defend title

Lucy Charles from the UK takes first place in the women’s race for the Standard Bank Ironman African Championship, held in Port Elizabeth yesterday
Lucy Charles from the UK takes first place in the women’s race for the Standard Bank Ironman African Championship, held in Port Elizabeth yesterday
Image: Werner Hills

No sooner had United Kingdom’s Lucy Charles clinched her first Standard Bank Ironman African Championship yesterday than she vowed to be back to defend her title next year.

The 24-year-old made an impressive debut at this year’s African Champs when she crossed the finish line in 8 hours, 56 minutes and six seconds to clinch her first-ever Ironman title on the African continent.

Charles, who finished second in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii last year, dominated the race in all three disciplines and said it was her best race so far.

“I feel ecstatic to have won today. It was such a good race. The atmosphere was absolutely brilliant,” Charles said.

“I have never had crowds like that, especially for the run. That really helped me and got me through.”

Charles led from start to finish after hitting the water quick as a flash in the first leg.

“My game plan is always to go hard on the swim because that is my strength,” she said.

“I make sure that I have quite a good lead. I have really been working on my cycling, so I wanted to grow that lead.”

She said the run was more about soaking up the atmosphere than having to run hard to get the win.

“This is definitely one of the best courses I have done this season,” Charles said.

“The swim was really tough but I loved that and the bike course was absolutely stunning, the coastline is amazing. To see all that was beautiful.”

Charles was the fastest out of the water and maintained her lead throughout the race.

“It’s nice to have that amount of time leading so you can take a bit pressure off the run, because that is where it starts to hurt,” she said.

“I knew that the people behind me might be able to close down that time and I was hoping 11 minutes would be enough and it was.”
Charles said she would have a short rest before racing again in France before building up to the World Championships.

Women’s runner-up Susie Cheetham, also from the UK, who took part in her fourth African Champs race in yesterday, said she was disappointed with her finish of 9:02:58.

“If I look at the position I would have really loved to win,” Cheetham said. “I have had two thirds and two second finishes now and never a win.

“In terms of position I could say I am a bit disappointed, but overall I had a good performance.

“Lucy is a really class athlete, she came second in the World Champs so you can’t complain.

“Unfortunately for me Lucy only entered two weeks before the race – if it hadn’t been for that I would have taken my first win here.”

Meanwhile, Port Elizabeth-born professional triathlete Kyle Buckingham won his first African Champs title on home soil.

The 34-year-old, who finished fourth last year, was seventh out of the water and finished in third position after the bike leg.

During the third lap of the run he passed Josh Amberger to take second place and, with just 15km to go, Buckingham sprinted past Cameron Wurf to take first place which he kept till he crossed the finish line.

Australian Amberger, who was the fastest in the swim, took second place. This was Amberger’s second race and a huge improvement from his 18th place finish of last year.

“The race was fantastic. I am beyond words, I really gave it my best shot today,” he said.

“I really wanted to win, but I am glad that if someone was going to beat me it was a local guy.”

The leading results were: Men: 1 Kyle Buckingham (SA) 8:13:00, 2 Josh Amberger (Aus) 8:16:01, 3 Maurice Clavel (Ger) 08:18:51, 4 Cameron Wurf (Aus) 8:20:07, 5 Ronnie Schildknecht (Sui) 8:23:09, 6 Jonathan Shearon (US) 8:23:57, 7 Alessandro Degasperi (Ita) 8:25:10, 8 Giulio Molinari (Ita) 8:25:29, 9 Philipp Koutny (Sui) 8:26:18, 10 Eneko Llanos (Esp) 08:31:55 Women: 1 Lucy Charles (Eng) 8:56:06, 2 Susie Cheetham (Eng) 9:02:58, 3 Linsey Corbin (US) 9:07:10, 4 Rachel Mcbride (Can) 9:18:34, 5 Manon Genet (Fra) 9:21:59, 6 Gurutze Frades (Esp) 09:30:14, 7 Katharina Grohmann (Germany) 9:35:07, 8 Martina Kunz (Sui) 9:36:40, 9 Maja Stage Nielsen (Den) 9:37:21, 10 Annah Watkinson (SA) 09:38:30