History repeats at Ironman 70.3 Worlds
“I’m going to throw a grenade. I believe the performance of Jan Frodeno at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship is the greatest triathlon performance in triathlon history.”
Not my words, but those tweeted by Australian triathlon legend Greg Bennett, and while the three-time Olympian might be erring a little on the hyperbolic, judging by the number of ‘likes’ there were plenty in agreement.
Given the podium in South Africa on Sunday also included Alistair Brownlee and Javier Gomez, it was undeniably the highest-calibre Ironman 70.3 race to date, a distance that has been gathering momentum since the world championship moved from Clearwater, Florida in 2011. But while it might have been standout in nature, it also had echoes of a former classic meeting between Brownlee, Frodeno and Gomez, almost exactly a decade earlier – the 2008 Olympic final in Beijing.
It’s uncanny how history has a knack of repeating itself. Back then, Gomez was the established force, having won 11 of his previous 13 ITU races, including the world title in Vancouver two months earlier. Frodeno arrived in China after a consistent season, but was far from a gold medal favourite. Brownlee had qualified late and was the wet-behind-the-ears 20-year-old out to ruffle feathers.
In Port Elizabeth at the weekend, Gomez had the 70.3 pedigree, having twice stood atop the world championship podium. Frodeno was an established performer, true, but with questionable footspeed to challenge his younger rivals. And Brownlee, despite impressive outings in Utah and Dubai, was still a comparative novice at the distance.
The comparisons don’t end there. Once the gun went and the swim had whittled the lead pack down to eight, the Yorkshireman – just as in 2008 – was a main aggressor, forcing a hard bike leg and taking off early on the run. And just as in China, while Brownlee couldn’t sustain the early pace, neither, ultimately, could Gomez, who clawed his way up to Frodeno before dropping back complaining of a stitch.