The nation can this week toast one sporting triumph as a Birmingham graduate and triathlete returns to her former university in a blaze of glory as Britain's first ever Ironman World Champion.
A surprise victory in the elite World Ironman Championship triathlon saw Chrissie Wellington, 30, beat off fierce competition in Hawaii in only her second Ironman contest.
The endurance event comprises an 2.4 mile ocean swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and a gruelling 26.2 mile marathon, all in temperatures of 35 degrees. Not only did Chrissie complete the triathlon in an impressive time of 9hrs:08mins:45secs, but her sub 3 hour marathon was the second fastest time ever recorded in the competition.
Determined Chrissie, who graduated in 1998 with a first class degree in Geography and is now based in Thailand and Switzerland, will toast her win with colleagues and friends at a celebratory reception at the University of Birmingham on 30 October.
Chrissie, a member of of the Birmingham Running and Triathlon club (BRATS) became a professional triathlete in February this year, after winning the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in September 2006. She stormed to victory at her first Ironman event in Korea and six weeks later even greater success followed on the Big Island of Hawaii. The win in Kona has been described as a "remarkable feat" and a "near impossible task for a rookie".
Chrissie said: "It's a dream come true. Some people told me I had a chance, but I didn't really believe I could do it. I was praying I could hold on for the run."
“I have had so much support from my old club, BRATS. It’s great to come back to the University and to celebrate the victory with everyone from club. I feel like I have come full circle - this is where it all started for me, and I am so proud to be able to return as Ironman World Champion”
Dr Asker Jeukendrup, of the University of Birmingham's School of Sport and Exercise Sciences and fellow triathlete, also competed in the Ironman competition in Hawaii. He said: "I saw Chrissie for the first time on the bike when she had moved into 4th position. Then when I saw her later on the run she was in the lead and I could not believe it! When I still had 13 miles to go on the run Chrissie was approaching the finish.
I had a very difficult race, in pretty extreme conditions and was glad to cross the line and complete my 14th Ironman race” Chrissie did not seem to suffer in the conditions, stormed to the finish with the Union Jack and had plenty of energy left that night to celebrate this unbelievable achievement. I think winning the Ironman World Championship means that she can call herself the fittest woman on the planet!”
Ben Hill – Press Officer, University of Birmingham
Tel: 0121 414 5134 / Mob: 07789 921 163
Notes to Editor
The University of Birmingham
The University of Birmingham has around 27,000 students and 6,000 members of staff and a turnover of £360 million.
Birmingham encompasses not only the lakeside setting and green landscape of its Edgbaston campus, but also has bases across Birmingham as well at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford upon Avon, the Ironbridge Institute at the Ironbridge Gorge and at its outward bound Priestley Centre on the edge of Lake Coniston in the Lake District.
Birmingham is consistently in the top three in British inter-varsity sport and in 2004, six recent graduates and one current Birmingham student competed at the Athens Olympics.