I R O N M A N _ T R I A T H L O N

Germany’s Hellriegel
wins Ironman
at 8:33:01

Heather Fuhr of Canada
wins the women's division;
Newby-Fraser dropps out

Story by Pat Bigold
Photos by Dennis Oda

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii--Under hazy skies with temperatures in the mid-80s, Germany's Thomas Hellriegel won the 1997 Hawaii Ironman World Championship today in 8:33:01 after finishing runner-up in 1995 and 1996.

It was a major breakthrough for the 26-year-old bachelor's country which has had several prerace favorites the past few years but never had a native son win. Last year, Hellriegel suffered a heartbreaking loss to Belgium's Luc Van Lierde after setting the course bike race record of 4:24:50. Van Lierde was sidelined with an injury this year.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Thomas Hellriegel crosses the finish line to win the
1997 Hawaii Ironman World Chapionship
today in Kona.

Just behind Hellriegel was another German, Juergen Zack, who clocked 8:39:35 . Zack, who competed in his ninth straight Hawaii Ironman (he had six top-10 finishes), said earlier this week that the Germans could not afford to lose again.

There's a lot of pressure on Germans to win here," Zack said. "There have always been expectations for us, but no German has won. The press will be very hard on us if we don't this year." Zack was 11th last year.

The women's race produced a big surprise.

Wendy Ingraham of Walnut Creek, Calif., took the women's lead out of the water (seventh overall) with a course record 49:52, fought off a strong challenge by eight-time champion Paula Newby-Fraser halfway through the bike race, and maintained the lead through 9 miles of the marathon before 29-year-old Heather Fuhr of Canada caught and passed her with amazing ease.

Newby-Fraser dropped out at mile 12 of the run.

Fuhr, who set the Canadian Ironman course record for the marathon with a 3-hour, 3-minute time, and was seventh here last year, finished first today with a combined unofficial time of 9:31.41.

Women’s finish most
dramatic since 1982

Competitors lose muscle control
within sight of the finish

By Pat Bigold

Hawaii Ironman featured the most dramatic finish since 1982 when Julie Moss crawled across the finish.

It occurred between the fourth and fifth-place finishers, Californians Wendy Ingraham and Sian Welch (wife of 1994 men's winner Greg Welch), who been racing neck and neck for much of the latter part of the marathon. Both lost muscle control within sight of the finish.

Welch, who was headed for third place after breaking away from Ingraham on a hill five miles from the finish, was caught with a half mile to go by Brazil's Fernanda Keller who clocked in at 9:50:2.

With 200 meters to go, Welch began to wobble all over the road and bounced against the snow fencing as she entered the home stretch. As the local TV cameras focused on Welch, Ingraham appeared out of nowhere and also lost control.

Within feet of each other, they both fell, got up, fell again, got up yet again. Ingraham eventually, crawled to the line, collapsed and was then scooped up in the arms of fiance, Kurt Stockton. She waved to the crowd as she was carried away.

Welch then managed to crawl on her knees until she could reach her hand over the finish line and collapsed . She was picked up by her husband and was brought to the medical tent.

Ingraham finished in 9:51:31 and Welch made it over in 9:51:41.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Heather Fuhr of Canada gets a congratulatory hug from
a race official. Fuhr was the overall women's winner.

Ironically, both Germans finished well behind Kailua's Brent Imonen in the swim, which began the race. Imonen was 11th out of the water 49 minutes and 55 seconds while Hellriegel was 59th in 53:08 and Zack was 22nd in 52:12.

Imonen had fallen back to 16th place with seven miles to go in the 112-mile bike race and in 18th at 12:54 p.m. as he made the transition to the 26.2-mile run.

The 28-year-old moved up to 11th place by the 4.6-mile mark of the marathon at 1:20 p.m. But fell into 20th place 30 minutes later 7.8 miles into the run. Ingraham had finished fourth twice and fifth twice since 1993.

Honolulu's 44-year-old Cliff Rigsbee was next among Hawaii residents entering the run at 1:23 p.m. The morning began with an accident that tested the composure of elite competitors.

It was a false start in the swim -- an accident that most observers said was almost unheard of in the race. It affected many of the elite competitors who placed themselves up front in the waters off Dig Me Beach.

About 3 minutes before the scheduled start, an air horn on an escort boat sounded a prerace warning long and hard instead in two quick blasts, as is the norm. All of the swimmers in the front section reacted to it and bolted. The starter yelled frantically for swim marshalls on surfboards to move in front of the lead swimmers and physically stop them.

"Stop them! Stop Them! They won't stop unless you grab them!" A cannon blast is the official starting sound.

It wasn't until the leader approached the first buoy --about 150 yards into the course --that the marshalls stopped the start.

Hawaii Finishers

(Combined time for 2.4-mile swim,
112-mile bike race and 26.2-mile foot race.
DNF means did not finish race.)

Luis De La Torre, Kailua-Kona, 9:11:49
Cliff Rigsbee, Honolulu, 10:08:43
Ted Thome, Waipahu, 9:42:31
Brent Imonen, Kailua, 10:18:03
Chris Tang, Honolulu, 10:18:15
Peter Hursty, Honolulu, 10:36:49
Heather Matz-Jorris, Honolulu, 10:37:27
Kelly Beck, Honolulu, 10:44:17
John Westergaard, Kailua-Kona, 10:57:22
Thomas Billings, Honolulu, 10:58:25
Tony Guerra, Honolulu, 11:03:02
David Cobb, Honolulu, 11:08:30
Thomas McElligott, Honolulu, 11:09:37
Susan Cordell, Hilo, 11:30:15
Silica Johnson, Honolulu, 11:44:15
Rachel Portner, Honolulu, 11:52:11
Ken DaVico, Kapaa, 11:53:32
Scott Swanson, Kailua-Kona, 12:00:56
Lokelani McMichael, Kailua-Kona, 12:02:14
Che-Kaeo Pilago, Kailua-Kona, 12:06:59
Cindy Nakamura, Honolulu, 12:12:24
Michael Hargrove, Volcano, 12:14:53
Tom Heide, Kailua-Kona, 12:18:37
Curt Oishi, Hilo, 12:19:16
Gil Loomis, Kailua, 12:25:59
Leonard Peddicord, Kailua-Kona, 12:26:37
Steven Foster, Ewa Beach, 12:41:23
Robert Boone, Kaneohe, 12:43:41
Dard Aller, Kailua-Kona, 12:48:26
Dick Campbell, Holualoa, 12:50:42
Justin Costa, Makawao, 12:56:16
LJQ Lopaka, Kailua-Kona, 12:56:30
Randy Taniguchi, Honolulu, 13:07:08
Jerry Case, Kamuela, 13:07:17
Scott Ruedy, Kealakekua, 13:13:26
Tim Robinson, Kealakekua, 13:15:33
Peter Bartsch, Kailua-Kona, 13:22:19
James Sakai, Hilo, 13:33:03
Mary Jo Stevenson, Hilo, 13:38:54
Dane Decker, Kailua-Kona, 13:49:44
Gerry Murphy, Kailua-Kona, 13:54:04
Edward Hudcovic, Kihei, 13:58:42
Vernon Ramos, Wahiawa, 13:59:24
Diane McCary, Kailua-Kona, 14:14:29
Chad Shimakura, Captain Cook, 14:18:06
Carol Jaxon, Honolulu, 14:24:09
Jackie Gesswein, Honolulu, 14:28:37
Gary Shields, Kailua-Kona, 14:39:55
Warren Harlow, Haleiwa, 14:42:12
Autumn Johnson, Kailua-Kona, 14:48:11
Scott Mitchell, Kailua-Kona, 14:58:58
Carl Osaki, Kailua, 15:09:33
Taunya Rediger, Kailua-Kona, 15:10:26
Jimmy Acol Jr., Kailua-Kona, 15:15:56
Patrick McCary, Kailua-Kona, 15:16:43
John Santana, Holualoa, 15:29:38
Jim Wheeler, Kailua-Kona, 15:30:35
Stephen Shimada, Kailua-Kona, 16:06:24
Rex Chadwick, Kailua-Kona, 16:31:48
Papa Pea Bill Paget, Kailua-Kona, 16:39:12
Frank Ferren, Kailua-Kona, 16:41:42
Dianne Asimakopoulos, Honolulu, 16:46:04
Brigid O'Meara, Honolulu, DNF
Carl Ko'omoa, Holualoa, DNF
John Cole, Kailua-Kona, DNF
Andrea Abay-Abay, Kailua-Kona, DNF

Official results are listed at:

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