Undoubtedly, any person who mustered courage and went to the start in a triathlon, be it a sprint start or a “half”, deserves respect. And what about triathletes, who often show unbelievable results and reach unimaginable heights in triathlon. Stories of these women will not leave anyone indifferent.
With eight Ironman World Championship titles and 24 Ironman race wins, Paula was first woman to trade 9 hours on Kona and held the record for 17 years until Chrissie Wellington broke it in 2009. She also holds the highest position in the overall protocol of Ironman Championship – 11th place. In 1995, before finishing on Kona, she collapsed down, and could not get up for 20 minutes. It was the dehydration that cost her the win.
But, having proved that she was a real champion, she returned here in 1996 and won her eighth – last title. Paula was born in Zimbabwe in 1962 but grew up in South Africa and was a swimmer as a child. In 1984 she bought her first bike and after 8 weeks she won the local women’s triathlon race. Thus began her victorious journey. Paula is one of most consistent and driven triathletes in history. In this she is somewhat reminiscent of Dave Scott. In the 80s, she was limited by financial resources, problems of weak competition and small prize money (Erin Baker had not yet intervened).
In Paula’s life, everything was also not easy – she renounced South African citizenship for political reasons, and devoted herself to professional career.
New Zealander Erin Baker has attracted attention throughout her triathlon career – and not only for her sporting achievements, which at times were overshadowed by her bright political activities, in particular the fight against apartheid in South Africa and her speeches against “useless rotten officials from the IOC”.
Winning Ironman Championship in 1987 and 1990. Erin thus became 1 Champion from Australia and New Zealand. And at same time, she broke the Newby-Fraser record by 14 minutes.
Baker was born in 1961 and started her career as a runner. At the end of the century , she won Commonwealth Games, triathlon was a demonstration discipline, and then won Ironman in Canada, in what is said to be the harshest weather conditions – there was incredible heat. She then finished the running stage in 2:49!
After winning Hawaii in 1990, Erin shifted her focus towards diversity: she won ITU Championship, “Powerman” Zofingen in 1992. In total, she won 104 pro starts out of 121 in which she took part.
Erin hasn’t won as many sports awards as the other girls on this list, but she has been noted for her social activism outside of the race. For example, it is largely thanks to her that amount of prize money for women in triathlon has become same as for men. And she is amidst the few who successfully (up to victories) combined short and long distances.
Karen Smyers is a legendary American triathlete known for Karen passion and dedication to triathlon. She won ITU World Championships in 1990 and 1995. At same time, she managed to become the 1991 ITU Overall World Champion and win 1995 World Championship. Also won 1996 ITU World Long Distance Championships in Indiana, 7 World Cups, and gold at the 1995 and 1999 Pan Games.
Karen is known for her high instinct. Karen was able to return to big triathlon not only after a hamstring injury, serious lung disease and numerous fractures (collision with a truck while cycling), but also overcoming cancer in 1999.
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