Records and barriers were shattered in the racing chair/handcycle division of this year’s Ironman World Triathlon Championships held in Kona, Hawaii, on Oct. 12. Arguably one of the toughest one-day endurance events in the world, the race consists of a 2.4 mile ocean swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile marathon.
Each year, more than 20,000 contestants from 50 states and 80 different countries compete in qualifying races to earn one of 1,800 coveted race slots in the WTC. In past years there were only three male slots and one female slot for the handcycle division — for athletes who have a disability that precludes riding a bicycle and running. This year the WTC expanded the handcycle division to five male and two female slots.
As the name suggests, the bicycle leg in the handcycle division is done on a handcycle, the marathon is done in a racing chair, and the swim is accomplished on arm power.
In the men’s division, Thomas Fruwirth of Austria finished first with a total time of 9:02:55 which shattered the previous record — by 22 minutes — set by Krige Schabort in 2011. Bill Chaffey of Australia took second place, followed by three Americans, 2012 WTC winner Andre Kajlich in third, 2009 WTC champion Jason Fowler, and wheelchair racing legend Scot Hollonbeck.
In the women’s division, Minda Dentler of New York City made history by becoming the first woman handcyclist to officially complete the Ironman World Championship; her time was 14:39:14. Also competing was Susan Katz of Chicago, Ill. Katz had competed in two previous WTCs and fell just short of the bike cutoff time. You must finish the bike portion of the race by 5:30, and last year Katz was 25 minutes short. This year she improved her time by 18 minutes, but missed the bike cutoff by a mere 6.5 minutes.