I have received many congratulatory notes, and wish to say thank you from Daniela and myself.
While people want a race report, I find it difficult to write one, so for now I’d just like to tell the inside story that our athletes at camp see every day. I will let Dave Scott, one of the greatest Ironman athletes of all time, tell you his observations first:
Add to this the fact that in the last 10 World Championships of both Ironman and 70.3 Daniela has won 8.
There is little more to say. However there is so much more from the inside. I have been restrained up to now in calling Daniela the best Ironwoman of all time. I want to clarify why from my personal view of sport.
Winning in any sport when one is just totally superior does not automatically get you the super champion card in the world of Sutto. To receive that from me, one has to show me how they can find a way to win when their superiority is taken away. When their skills are impaired, in short when they shouldn’t win – but they do.
Up until last year I had said Daniela is the fastest Ironwoman of all time, but not the greatest. Unlike most experts I have the facts in front of me, training great athletes like Chrissie Wellington, Caroline Steffen in the long course, and Jodie Swallow and Mary Beth Ellis in the 70.3. I watched the numbers being put down at training every day.
In 2017 Daniela had a very seriously disrupted year. Her race season came down to a single meeting where we discussed that we can’t train for Kona because of her back injury; so instead to get ready for the 70.3 World Champs and we can still win – but only if we keep the training to 5150 (Olympic distance) level. If Daniela had wanted to pull out of Ironman and concentrate on 70.3 Worlds, I was more than happy.
It was decided, we would train for Chattanooga. If the back was then ok and we got medical confirmation we couldn’t do any long term damage, we would start Kona and see if we could do a decent job of hiding our lack of Ironman fitness; try to let her status of being ‘the champ’ fudge the title defence. However, Lucy Charles was having none of it, stood up and tested the wounded bird like never before. We witnessed the bird overcome Lucy’s challenge, but also her lack of preparation for the longer race. It was a step closer to getting coach to say, this is a super champ.
I tell you this because those inside our camp were told, Dani was 25 minutes slower than she can be. Most were skeptical. Only one agreed with me, and it was the only one that needed to be, ‘the bird’ herself. The win was bitter sweet for her. She smiled but on the inside she burned. I said we will take an extended break wether you like it or not. Complete rest for 3 months. Well I got 2 months and 1 week as Dani was going nuts. I insisted we fully reset, and then we will come back and have 3 more years to show how great she can be. It was, and still is my estimation that in 2019 the world will see ‘the bird’ at her very best. 2018 was the reset.
The 70.3 worlds were not on our calendar at all this year. But a bird with no wing damage just got better and better as the season went along. The big break had Dani come back looking stronger than ever. So we didn’t stop training or taper, went to Port Elizebeth and was fantastic. On to Kona with another incident free 6 weeks of training. So we were ready for a very good performance.
However Dani so easily could have not started. But somehow she did. Stung by jellyfish under both arm pits 2 minutes before the race start, both arms went numb and the pain excruciating. Watching the online broadcast, as the athletes strung out early in the swim there was no Dani in the first 15, she was not in the first 20, somethings wrong!
Those who know how Dani is at training, understand ‘very good’ is not near good enough to make her happy. After last years Kona race, every swim session was just was not good enough, no matter how well she swam. Her 5 minutes 30 seconds down out of the water in 2017, what an embarrassment never again, was her mantra.
‘You’re not training me hard enough in the swim’, whether a 6k or 7k swim session. Just not hard enough coach ‘you have gone soft’ on more than one or ten occasions. Countered with ‘you could do backstroke in the swim and still win’.
So when Dani started the bike on race day, I received a few messages from smart arse squad members, asking if she had decided to test out the theory, exiting the water over 10 minutes down. To their credit, they also added that, if she doesn’t have a reaction to the stings we think she can still do it, as no female rides like her.
So it was to be, and for those saying ‘its impossible for a women to ride that fast’, I don’t disagree, if we all didn’t see it every fast workout on the bike in training camp. The most terrifying thing for all the ITU boys is to hear was ‘you ride with the bird today’. The iron men didn’t cry, but they knew the solid day would be race pace all the way, no matter what the distance. Getting chicked by Dani is not dishonourable in our squad. Is she as fast as the top 20 men in a time trial? You bet she is, and any man in our squad will be more than pleased to tell you.
To then run sub 3 hours after such an incredible lone ride is a good achievement. Why only good? Because here is the scary thing, Dani’s race while unbelievable to most, still isn’t her best. She has more improvement. She can swim 7 minutes faster, we would all agree. But I think she can run 7 minutes faster in 2019. Yes I know that sounds crazy but I believe the bird has not peaked yet.
Photo Credit: Fountain Photos
However, last Saturday makes her happy not just for the win but because she again erased any doubts from herself and of lesser importance me, that she is a true super champ. One who overcomes adversity and finds a way to win when others could not. Thus gets my vote as the greatest female long course athlete ever!
Just the way I see it!
Feature Photo Credit: James Mitchell Photography