Exmouth athlete lands superb Ironman Florida success

 Exmouth athlete lands superb Ironman Florida success

Exmouth tri-athlete Katrina Matthews has won another major event with the news of her being crowned winner of the Ironman Florida, this time competing in the colours if the BMC-Vifit Pro Triathlon Team.

Her latest success came after she led the way in the swimming and then delivered the third fastest bike split (leading into T2) and she finished with an impressive sub-three hour marathon, completing the run in a time of 1:58:29.

What’s more, Matthews, an Army captain set a new course record winning time of 8:40:50 and that also means she is now third in the all-time British women’s list for the best times over the iron-distance with only Chrissie Wellington and Lucy Charles-Barclay having gone quicker. In the warm waters beside Panama City Beach’s pier on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Katrina led the elite women’s swim exiting the water with Meredith Kessler and Kelsey Withrow (both USA), 2:45 ahead of the race favourite and Ironman Champion Skye Moench (USA). In the run element, on what was a billiard table-flat, super-fast terrain of panhandle Florida, Kartrina, established a decent lead. However, Moench hit back on the bike leg and pulled that advantage back in the second half of the 112-mile course, coming into the bike/run transition T2 right behind Matthews.

The other British elite Ruth Astle, had moved into fourth, breaking the bike course record, just three minutes back while Meredith Kessler was sitting fifth with eight minutes to make up on the leader. In the run, Matthews was away first and set a fast pace, but Moench, whose running is her forte, chased her down in the first three miles. The pair ran side by side for a stretch so there was all to play for.

A small gap formed that fluctuated between ten seconds and a minute for miles but by half way Matthews had established a clear lead and in the final third she maintained or even increased her pace and after 20 miles Moench was no longer able to stay in touch: in fact, the difference steadily rose to five minutes by the end.

Meanwhile, the American Meredith Kessler had run into third place with GB’s Ruth Astle in fourth. Matthews’ 2:58 marathon was a course record and overall her 8:40:50 was an IM Florida course record.

Matthew’s was not the only record to be chalked up at the event. Behind the fast racing up front what captured the interest and hearts of supporters around the world was local Florida man Chris Nikic who became the first athlete with Down’s Syndrome to finish a full distance Ironman triathlon event. Nikic finished in 16:46 and he has been accepted as a new world record holder by Guinness World Records. It has certainly been a seriously fast climb up the ranking for Matthews who, just 18 months ago, under her maiden name of Kat Rye, produced an eye-catching performance in the Challenge Gran Canaria event. Racing as an Age-Group athlete at the time, she was the fastest female amateur by 15 minutes, in a time quicker than all of the female Pro athletes, except race winner Emma Pallant. In early 2020, Katrina joined the BMC-Vifit team who achieved an impressive ‘double’ at Ironman Florida with victory in the men’s event for team member, American, Chris Leiferman.

The next time Katrina Matthews will be in action will be at the 2020 World Championships to be raced round the Daytona 500 racetrack, in Florida on December 6.

Stephen Birley

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