With two Ironman World Championship races and three Professional Triathletes Organisation races with US$600,000 prize purses (along with some of the regular big-time events like Challenge Roth and the 70.3 worlds), 2023 offered a new look to professional racing, with lots of prize money and exposure available to the sports top stars. That led to a number of stacked fields and competitive events, which in turn led to some incredible performances.
Picking one as a “performance of the year” seemed ludicrous, so I didn’t even try. To me, in a year that was full of some incredible performances, three really stood out. But, before we get to those, here are a few of the race-day feats that, in any other year, might have been in the mix:
Max Neumann – PTO European Open
Despite having finished fourth in Kona in 2022, Australia’s Max Neumann shocked many around the world when he held off Kristian Blummenfelt to take the men’s race in Ibiza.
Anne Haug – PTO European Open
Like the men’s race in Ibiza, the women’s field for the PTO European Open was jam-packed with pretty much all the top long-distance athletes in the world. Germany’s Anne Haug would rip through the run, dusting no-less a talented runner than Ashleigh Gentle on the women’s side with her 1:02:55 run split (for 18 km). That was better than half the men’s field.
Magnus Ditlev – Challenge Roth
The Dane defended his title in Roth this year with a shockingly-fast 7:24:40 record-setting performance, shattering Jan Frodeno’s previous record of 7:35:39 thanks to his 46:47 swim, 3:57:45 bike and 2:37:09 marathon.
Alex Yee – Paris Test Event
While he would get foiled once again in his search for the world title (see below), Great Britain’s Alex Yee put his stamp on his “favourite” status for Paris next year with a dominating performance at the Test Event in August.
Rico Bogen – Ironman 70.3 World Championship
There weren’t too many who called this one – young German Rico Bogen set a new championship record (3:32:22), beating countryman Michael Raelert’s 3:34:04 winning time from Clearwater in 2009 of 3:34:04, and leading a German sweep of the podium ahead of Frederic Funk and Jan Stratmann.
Taylor Knibb – PTO US Open, Ironman 70.3 World Championship and Ironman World Championship
The American Olympian managed to nail her spot on the US team for the 2024 Olympics while also juggling an ambitious long-course schedule that saw her dominate the day at the PTO US Open in Milwaukee, defend her 70.3 world title in style, then take an incredible fourth in her full-distance debut in Kona. In any other year it would be easy to argue at least one of those would rank as the performance of the year, but this was not a normal year.
Sam Laidlow – Ironman World Championship Nice
The Frenchman thrilled the crowds in Nice with a home-grown win at the first Ironman World Championship race in Nice, improving on his runner-up finish from Kona the year before thanks to a dominating ride that set him apart from the rest of the field.
Dorian Coninx – World Triathlon Championship Finals
With all eyes on the two series leaders – Alex Yee and Hayden Wilde – for the second year in a row a Frenchman took a huge win at the Finals in Pontevedra and take the world title. Last year it was Leo Bergere who achieved the feat, this year it was Dorian Coninx, who won the day in a dramatic sprint finish.
Beth Potter – World Triathlon Championship Finals
While she also enjoyed a spectacular performance at the Paris Test Event, Great Britain’s Beth Potter capped off the season of her lifetime with a big win at the World Triathlon Championship Finals in Pontevedra. Heading into the race the world title was up for grabs between Potter and Cassandre Beaugrand. Potter would charge to the win with Beaugrand taking third.
With all the great racing we saw in 2023, there were three performances that stood above the rest. (In my mind, anyway. Happy to hear arguments on why I’m out to lunch.)
Daniela Ryf – Challenge Roth
For years Chrissie Wellington’s “world best” (8:18:13) from Challenge Roth in 2011 has seemed like an unattainable goal for the rest of the triathlon world to surpass. Sure, Daniela Ryf had come close in Roth in 2016 with her 8:22:04, but that still was almost four minutes behind Wellington’s time. Ryf had the race of her life in Roth this year, though, shattering the previous mark with her 8:08:21.
Jan Frodeno – PTO US Open
There has been lots of talk about Jan Frodeno being the GOAT in our sport, and for good reason. While his dream of taking another Ironman World Championship didn’t pan out, Frodeno did manage to pull out all the stops with a performance at the PTO US Open in Milwaukee that won’t be forgotten any time soon. Frodeno, who turned 42 just weeks after his big day in Milwaukee, topped a field that included many of the sport’s biggest names.
Lucy Charles-Barclay – Ironman World Championship
After four consecutive runner-up performances in Kona, Lucy Charles-Barclay finally took her first Ironman World Championship title thanks to a brilliant wire-to-wire performance. The British star was unstoppable from the gun, surging well ahead during the swim and never looking back as she put together the most incredible performance of her career, and certainly one of the most impressive performances of 2023.