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Flemish Triathlete Wins Ironman in Hawaii

by Leo Cendrowicz for Flanders Today - 10/14/13
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Frederik Van Lierde of West Flanders took the title of what is arguably the world’s ultimate physical challenge: the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. Van Lierde, 34, from Menen, finished the gruelling 3.86km ocean swim, 180km bike ride through lava fields and 42km marathon run in 8 hours, 12 minutes, 29 seconds.

Van Lierde, who placed third last year, was 25th after the swim, moved up to fourth place in the bike ride and then ran into first place with just under 16km left in the marathon. “I tried to be smart, and it worked out,” he said. “After last year, I believed I could do it. I worked hard this year. This is amazing. I don’t understand yet what this means to me. This is the best crowd you can imagine. Thank you so much, everybody.”

The first Flemish Ironman winner, in 1996, was his coach, Luc Van Lierde (unrelated), who won again three years later. Another Fleming, 29-year-old Bart Aernouts, from Antwerp, finished eighth in the race last Saturday.

Ironman races, or full triathlons, were developed in Hawaii in the late 1970s as a test of stamina in three punishing disciplines. The exploits of Flemish cycling legend Eddy Merckx were the inspiration for US Navy Commander John Collins to create the Ironman to pit champions from the three sports against each other.