In a year when so much of the news in our sport centred around tragedy and controversy, there were still some amazing “feel-good” stories to celebrate in 2023. As we get started on a new year, we look back at some of our favourite inspirational stories:
Kat Matthews comes back from tragic car accident
Great Britain’s Kat Matthews was in the midst of a spectacular year of racing in 2022 that included a runner-up finish at the Ironman World Championship St. George and a big win at the Sub8 Project as she geared up for her first appearance in Kona. Just weeks out from that debut, though, Matthews was hit by a car while training in Texas – her injuries were so bad it was feared she would never be able to race again.
Matthews overcame those injuries, though, and returned to racing with a podium finish at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside and then a huge win at Ironman Texas. That was enough to earn her the PTO’s inaugural Athlete of the Month title.
Christine Piche chooses “a better addiction”
After a childhood in which she was abused and sexually assaulted and an early adult life that saw her struggle to escape from a violent relationship, Christine Piche decided to start running. That morphed into a love of triathlon, which she says “has been my school of life.”
Bob Knuckey takes world championship title in Nice
Heading into this year’s inaugural Ironman World Championship event in Nice there were lots of questions about whether a 75-year-old could even finish the race that featured 2,400 m of climbing through the French Alps. In the end there was only one who made it to the finish line, the incredible Bob Knuckey, who claimed his fourth Ironman world championship title.
Bangladesh’s first Ironman World Championship finisher
“If you can dream it, you can make it happen,” says Mohammed Shamsuzzaman Arafat, who has inspired the nation of Bangladesh through his incredible exploits over the years, including competing at, and finishing, the Ironman World Championship.
Thriving with just one kidney
American Hilary Baude (pictured above with her daughter Ellie) embarked on an ambitious journey of 10 marathons and two Ironman races in 2023 in the “1K12M” (one kidney, 12 marathons) challenge. Baude donated a kidney in 2021 and since then has taken on the challenge of full-distance triathlon racing. Her incredible story truly embodies the concept of “giving” in a way that’s hard to imagine.
Hockey legend starts running marathons and doing triathlons
After a “marathon” 24-year career in the NHL, Slovakia’s Zdeno Chara took up the sport in earnest last year, competing at a number of marathons and triathlons. Chara routinely uses his efforts as fundraising opportunities, too.