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Kona Coverage: Els Visser rides 35 km with one leg to earn the day’s final paycheck

She survived a shipwreck before becoming a pro triathlete. Does it come as a surprise that a broken pedal wouldn't stop her?

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

When you’ve survived a shipwreck (read her amazing story below) you likely arrive at most races with a remarkably healthy perspective. That’s not to say Els Visser isn’t a fierce competitor – the 33-year-old from the Netherlands won Ironman New Zealand earlier this year and took the European Long Distance Championship in Almere last month.

A shipwreck changed her life … now she’s a pro triathlete

On Saturday Visser was in the midst of an impressive day at the Ironman World Championship – she was 23rd out of the water and powered through the women ahead to put herself amongst the top women chasing front-runner Lucy Charles-Barclay.

At one point Visser made a huge move on the bike, passing a large string of athletes ahead. (Riders aren’t allowed to “slot in” part way through a group, so if you do make a pass you need to move through the entire line of riders ahead.) The live coverage of the race managed to capture Visser’s big move, as can be seen below.


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A post shared by E L S V I S S E R (@elsvisser_)

That huge move got Visser up to sixth place up the climb to Hawi, and eventually she would find herself riding with eventual runner-up, Anne Haug, when her pedal broke.

Visser completed the final 35 km of the bike pedalling with just her right leg, then managed a 3:14 marathon to finish the race in 8:59:16, the 15th of 16 women who broke the nine-hour barrier.

“Played strong all day and dealt with the cards I got,” Visser would post on Instagram after the race. “After a good swim I cut through the field on the bike and was in the middle of the game. With 35k to go on the bike my left bike pedal came off. I couldn’t do anything and had to make my way into transition with just my right leg. Mentally not easy to digest, but I tried to stay positive starting the marathon. I made my way to the finish in 08.59.16, a 15th place. I’m proud on how I executed today and my achievement.”

As she should be.


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A post shared by E L S V I S S E R (@elsvisser_)