Chrissie Wellington: Possibly the World's Greatest Triathlete

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Chrissie Wellington: Possibly the World's Greatest Triathlete
Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

The women's divisions in a lot of professional sports are usually overlooked.  It is hard to find coverage of a lot of sports.  That is all beginning to change in a few sports, however.  In particular, the Ironman triathlon, has gained a lot of attention as of late.  The women's division has become very deep with world class talent.  But one athlete in particular has risen above all of the rest.

Chrissie Wellington has been a dominating force in the sport of Triathlon.  As a matter of fact, she is currently undefeated in the Ironman distance.  This year at the 2009 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, Chrissie broke the course record for a female.

Her time of 8:54:02 broke the long standing record of Paula Newby-Frazier which had stood since 1992.  Here is a look at how Chrissie has become a three time World Ironman Champion.

Chrissie was born on February 18, 1977 in Suffolk, England.  While attending school she became a competitive swimmer and eventually swam for her University.  Chrissie graduated from  Birmingham University in 1998.  After graduating Chrissie traveled the world and Chrissie herself has been quoted "It opened my eyes to all of the problems in the world."

Chrissie then went back to school, getting her MA in developmental studies from the University of Manchester.  She then went to work for the British agency DEFRA, which works on  international policy.  Chrissie worked on developing policies for sanitation and environmental reconstruction.  

Chrissie became disillusioned by the bureaucracy of a paper pushing job and took a leave and traveled to Nepal.  Chrissie began working for a government agency in Nepal in the capital city of Katmandu, where she led a a community-based sanitation company. While in Nepal, Chrissie would commute daily on a mountain bike as well as running in the mountains. 

In 2004, Chrissie raced her first sprint triathlon in England where she finished third.  Two months later she won the Eton super sprints twice.  In February 2006 Chrissie entered the Coast to Coast adventure race in the Alps.  Despite having no Kayaking experience, she went on to finish second in the race. She then qualified for the ITU World Age Group Championship by winning an Olympic distance race in England.

In less than three months after qualifying for the Age Group Worlds, Chrissie won the World Age Group Championship by over four minutes.  Chrissie trained over 20 hours per week while still working a full time job.  During this time Chrissie was also a competitive runner.  She finished the London Marathon at a time 3:08:17.

In 2007 Chrissie met with her current coach, Brett Sutton, in Switzerland.  After joining his triathlon team TBB, Chrissie quit her job to focus on becoming a professional triathlete.  After becoming a pro, Chrissie quickly started winning races at the Olympic triathlon distance.  

Her first attempt at a longer, Half Ironman distance did not go as well as planned.  Her performance on a hilly course was marred by mechanical problems during the bike leg and Chrissie was forced to climb in a much higher gear than normal.  She still went on to finish 5th.  Just six days later she won a triathlon in Zurich, Germany.

In August of 2007 Chrissie entered one the toughest triathlons in the world, the Alpe d'Huez.  This is the same 21 turn, mountain that has made the Tour de France famous.  Chrissie went on to win this race by over 29 minutes. 

The Ironman World Championship has been held in Hawaii every year since it's inception in 1978.  The race has moved from Oahu to Kona in 1980. Chrissie, still considered a rookie at this time pulled off what many call the greatest upset in Ironman history by winning the World title over Samantha Mcglone.  It was the first time a Kona "rookie" has won the World Championship.

In 2008 Chrissie won Ironman Australia by over 5 minutes, and her marathon time of 3:01:53 was only bettered that day by two men.  Chrissie then won the European Ironman Championship in Frankfurt, Germany. Chrissie nearly broke that course record, which is also held by Paula Newby-Frazier.  Later that month she won the triathlon at Alpe d"Huez again.

By the time the Ironman World Championship came around in 2008, Chrissie was no longer an unknown.  She was quickly named a pre race favorite to recapture the women's race.  During the bike leg, Chrissie punctured a tire and lost nearly 10 minutes on the bike. 

Another competitor, Rebecca Keat, passed Chrissie a C02 cartridge so she could finish.  Chrissie quickly remounted and was able to get back into the race and eventually repeat her 2007 performance.

2009 was another great year for Chrissie.  Her year began again in Australia where she again won Ironman Australia.  she followed that up with a half-ironman win in Kansas.  In July, Chrissie not only won the Quelle Challenge but smashed the record time by over 13 minutes. 

On October 10, 2009, the Ironman World Championship was held in Kona, Hawaii.  Chrissie was once again the overwhelming favorite to win for the 3rd consecutive year.  With a 54 minute swim, a bike time of 4:52:06 and a marathon of 3:03:05, Chrissie became the female Ironman World Champion for the 3rd straight time.  Alon the way she also broke the long standing record of 8:55:28 set by Paula Newby-Frazier in 1992.

Chrissie Wellington has  turned the Ironman world on it's ear by winning three straight world titles.  What is even more impressive is the fact that she is still a relative new comer to the sport.  She just turned professional in 2007.  It may be a long time before we crown a new women's world champion in Kona.

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