After back-to-back disappointing finishes to his seasons in 2017 and 2018, Jan Frodeno had one of the best years in recent memory in 2019.
by James Sutherland
The 38-year-old German went a perfect four-for-four, culminating in a dominant, record-setting win at the Ironman World Championships in October, to earn our distinction as Male International Triathlete of the Year.
Frodeno, the 2008 Olympic champion, made a successful transition to long-course racing in 2013, landing on the podium in his Kona debut in 2014 by taking third. He followed that up by winning consecutive titles in ‘15 and ‘16. But, after that, he hit a bit of a snag.
Frodeno was reduced to walking in 2017 and, in 2018, was forced to pull out a month before the race due to a stress fracture.
And then came 2019.
The full-distance world record holder got things started off in June, winning the Ironman 70.3 Kraichgau by almost 13 minutes. He kept the momentum going with a win at the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt, prevailing in a close battle with countryman Sebastian Kienle in a quick time of 7:56:02.
Frodeno then cruised to another 70.3 title in Gdynia in mid-August before gearing up for the sport’s most prestigious race in October.
In Kona, everything went perfectly. He came out of the water in second, led the field by two minutes coming off the bike, and then produced the fastest marathon split in the field (2:42:43) to literally run away with the victory. The win put Frodeno in elusive company, joining Dave Scott, Mark Allen, Peter Reid and Craig Alexander as winners of three or more Ironman World Championship men’s titles.
His final time of 7:51:13 set a new course record, lowering fellow German Patrick Lange’s 7:52:39 from the year prior, in what was just the third sub-eight hour performance ever on the Big Island (Tim O’Donnell came in eight minutes later to make it four). In his two previous wins, Frodeno had clocked in at 8:14:40 and 8:06:30 respectively.
What stands out from Frodeno’s incredible year – beyond the victories – was the sheer dominance over his competitors. The combined margin of victory in his four races: 29 minutes, 25 seconds.
Vincent Luis, France
Luis had an incredible short course campaign, winning both the WTS World Championship and Super League titles. On the WTS circuit, the 30-year-old Frenchman placed no worse than sixth over the course of seven races, including a win in Yokohama, to come out on top by over 100 points over Spaniard Mario Mola. After closing out the previous season’s Super League title in February, Luis is well on his way to winning another having won the first two races of the 2019-20 campaign.
Kristian Blummenfelt, Norway
After closing out 2018 with a new 70.3 world record at the Middle East Championships in Bahrain, Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt followed up with a monster 2019, highlighted by his win at the WTS Grand Final in Lausanne. He also took fourth at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship and has had a strong start to the Super League season, currently ranked fourth.
Gustav Iden, Norway
Iden, who was a close runner-up to Blummenfelt in Bahrain back in December, staked his claim as the best 70.3 athlete on the planet in 2019 by winning the world championships in Nice, out-running two-time Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee in the process. Iden also placed third at the Amlin Triathlon in Bermuda in April, and fourth at both the Olympic test event in Tokyo and the WTS Grand Final in August.