Patrick Lange has smashed records at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii, tackling the grueling 226-kilometer endurance event in just over eight hours. Swiss triathlete Daniela Ryf took the women's gold.
The first wave of athletes dove into the crystal blue waters surrounding the Big Island, the largest of Hawaii's eight main islands, at 6:35 a.m. local time (16:35 UTC) on Saturday morning.
And eight hours, one minute and 39 seconds later, German triathlete Patrick Lange (photo above) crossed the finish line in Kona to take the men's gold, simultaneously setting a new world record for the Ironman triathlon distance.
The 31-year-old from Darmstadt reacted to his record-shattering victory with disbelief.
Daniela Ryf of Switzerland picked up the women's title for the third time in her career, repeating her victories in 2016 and 2015. Britain's Lucy Charles and Australia's Sarah Crowley took home second and third, respectively.
Day of suspense
In the men's professional category, Lange, who had taken bronze in 2016, surged past Canada's Lionel Sanders in the final 3-mile (5-kilometer) run stretch on his way to the world record.
His run pace in the last three miles of the course was a blistering 5:46 minutes per mile.
Sanders crossed the finish line in second place, while Britain's David McNamee took third.
Last year's silver medalist, Germany's Sebastian Kienle, just missed a podium spot with his fourth-place finish.
After being beset by problems in the run, the defending men's champion Jan Frodeno, also of Germany, mustered his strength to make it across the finish line, though he failed to medal this year.
Professionals, amateurs pack the field
Professional triathletes were not the only individuals on the course on Saturday. Amateur competitors also packed the field, for a total of some 2,000 competitors from around the world. Thousands more lined the course to cheer on participants.
The full Ironman is a type of triathlon that starts with a 3.8-kilometer swim, followed by a 180-kilometer bike ride and ends with a full 42-kilometer marathon-distance run.
Competitors are timed throughout, including in transition zones where they have to swap equipment and gear as quickly as possible — for instance, peeling off a skin-tight wet suit and pulling on tight bike shoes and aerodynamic helmets.
While other Ironman events take place across the globe throughout the year, in the endurance triathlon community, both professional and amateur, the Kona race is considered to be the crown jewel. In order to compete in the race, aspiring participants have to qualify through other Ironman or half-Ironman races, in which the distances are half as long as in the full version.
The world championships have taken place in Hawaii every year since 1978, when 15 athletes of different disciplines decided to design a race to test who was the fittest of all — runners, swimmers or bikers. Since then, the once informal event has become a major global phenomenon organized by the World Triathlon Corporation.
Germany hosts two Ironman races, one in Hamburg and one in Frankfurt.