Photos By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Thomas Hellriegel, below, and Heather Fuhr, bottom, were
the men's and women's winners, respectively, while Wendy
Ingraham crawled to the finish line ahead of Sian Welch,
above, to take fourth place among women at the Ironman
World Championship on the Big Island.

More photos in the [News] section.

Ironman full of
drama at the finish line

By Pat Bigold

KAILUA-KONA -- Nothing could eclipse the dramatic spectacle of seeing Wendy Ingraham outcrawl Sian Welch to the finish line for fourth place in the Ironman World Championship Saturday afternoon.

Germany's Thomas Hellriegel, who was runner-up here in 1995 and '96, won the grueling event when he led a three-place German finish at 8 hours, 33 minutes and one second.

Hellriegel was followed by Jurgen Zack at 8:39:18 and Lother Leder at 8:40:30.

Heather Fuhr of Canada topped the women's race, rallying to catch Ingraham between miles 9 and 10 in the marathon to finish in 9:31:43.

But come-from-behind efforts and victories against seemingly unbeatable odds set the tone for the 2.4-mile, 112-mile, 26.2-mile event.

Honolulu's 28-year-old Hea-ther Matz Jorris was the first Hawaii woman to cross the finish line, but she did it the hard way.

Photos By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Thomas Hellriegel.

''I made up about 30 places on the run," said Matz-Jorris, who was the 16th female to complete the course and the 380th overall. ''I tried to catch one per mile."

Her time of 10:37:27 was also good for third in her 25-29 age group.

Yet, Matz Jorris, director of personal training at the Honolulu Club, did not even finish in the top 40 women in the swim or the bike race.

She said she did her share of suffering to make it through the 140.6-mile ordeal.

''The conditions were terrible this year. There was terrible headwind on the bike phase, so it tended to beat you up and made the times very slow. In the run, there were no clouds at all, so it really was devastating. It was all just sun until maybe the last three or four miles of the race."

Matz Jorris said she avoided being drawn into the unusual and potentially disastrous false start that occurred prior to the swim. ''I was up front but I didn't go," she said.

Many swimmers stroked ahead for about 150 yards before course marshals on surfboards began to physically apprehend the leaders and halt the start.

The swim was a battlefield for women swimmers like Matz Jorris and Juliana Nievergelt of Foxboro, Mass., who suffered a black eye from the hand of a male swimmer.

''It was rough -- I don't like the swim at all," said Matz Jorris. ''You can't get away and you're in a pack of people all the time. I got kicked but I protected my face pretty well. You end up swimming with your hands in front of your face the whole time."

Photos By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Heather Fuhr.

Matz Jorris is a new member of the U.S. national team, which will be in Perth, Australia for the short-course triathlon world championships on Nov. 16.

''So I have to recover from this," she said.

''It was incredibly difficult on the bike," said Honolulu's Kelly Beck, 34, a first-time competitor, who completed the course in 10:44:17.

"By mile 90, the headwind was so bad that I figured there's no way I'm going to be able to run. But I thought the temperatures weren't so bad because when I was running, it was overcast."

Beck, who is a marketing consultant, said he was amazed that anyone was able to stop the false start.

"That could've been a disaster. Let's say a lot of those guys got away. Fortunately they did stop them."

The swimmers false-started to the sound of an air horn, which was supposed to warn that the starting cannon would soon go off.

Honolulu's Thomas Billings (10:58:25) called his day ''horrible."

"I felt like dropping out after the bike. I suffered severe cramping on the bike. I never felt that way before,"he said.

Billings said he'd been told the winds would be light.

''On our run back into town, we were going 16 or 17 mph. Everybody was struggling. Once we got back into town, it was better but everybody was fried."

Ingraham and Welch were battling cramps that caused them to bump into each other, fall, bounce off the supporting fence and eventually crawl toward the finish at the urging of spectators.

''Crawl! Crawl!" yelled members of the crowd, who wanted to see both make it to the finish. Each did make it on hands and knees, with Ingraham passing Welch in what some observers dubbed, "the diaper dash."

Her faster crawl made the difference between a $15,000 pay day and a $12,500 pay day.

Each winner received $35,000.

Among the celebrity finishers were New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, who clocked 10:54:30 for 78th place; Secret Service Agent Tim Jacobs (13:01:50), and former Baywatch star Alexandra Paul (13:18:52).

Hawaii finishers in Scoreboard

Official results are listed at:

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Community]
[Info] [Letter to Editor] [Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1997 Honolulu Star-Bulletin