Between 2017 and 2020, Great Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay had finished second at four Ironman world championship events. Three times in Kona (twice to Daniela Ryf and once to Anne Haug) and at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in South Africa in 2018. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the cancellation of the various Ironman worlds in 2020 and the Ironman World Championship in 2021, there was only one Ironman world championship event held in 2021 – the 70.3 Worlds in St. George, Utah.
With the pandemic wreaking havoc on race schedules early in the season, Charles-Barclay seemed to be following a completely different training and racing plan in 2021. She swam at the British Swimming Trials, finishing second in the 1,500 m. She then competed in the Super League Arena Games, once again finishing second (to Beth Potter) and proving that she is much more than a long-distance specialist. She fuelled her Olympic dreams with an incredible fifth-place finish at WTCS Leeds before finally setting her sights on some long-distance training as she started to prepare for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in St. George and the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. The Kona event would be moved to February, then moved again to St. George, Utah next May, leaving her just one Ironman world title to chase.
And while Charles-Barclay was chasing her first world championship, the rest of the women in the field spent the entire day chasing her. Renowned as the best swimmer in the sport, Charles-Barclay led the way out of the water at Sand-Hollow State Park, leading by a whopping 90 seconds over the rest of the women, including some of the top swimmers in the sport like Brazil’s Pamella Oliveira, Great Britain’s Holly Lawrence and American Taylor Knibb.
If the swim was impressive, the bike was even better. Charles-Barclay opened up more time on the field, hitting T2 with a lead of 4:50 on Knibb and six minutes on five-time 70.3 world champ Daniela Ryf, who is typically considered one of the best women’s cyclists in the sport.
Things continued to go Charles-Barclay’s way on the run – she posted the day’s fastest run split to easily take the title in 4:00:20, over eight-minutes ahead of South Africa’s Jeanni Metzler with Knibb just a few seconds back in third.
While the win was huge, the way Charles-Barclay got that win was even more impressive, posting the fastest splits in all three disciplines to truly dominate the day. It was, without a doubt, one of the performances of the year.