The PTO 2020 Championship at CHALLENGEDAYTONA® was a phenomenal success across the board – scintillating performances, an unrivalled field in terms of talent and an exceptional prize purse.
For some, though, hopes of glory soon faded on the circuit as several of the world’s finest suffered race-ending injuries during the event.
Double Olympic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee, 2012 ITU World Champion Lisa Norden and 2014 IRONMAN World Champion – and two-time IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion – Sebastian Kienle all started the race with ambitions of taking home the $100,000 grand prize.
However, all three were forced to retire through injury. We spoke to them about the race and the problems they encountered.
Numbness hampers Kienle’s shot at glory
A perennial medallist at the both the IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships over the last decade, Sebastian Kienle was one of the favourites heading into the race at the Daytona Speedway®.
However, his race did not go according to plan. Heading into the bike stage, Kienle was well placed to launch an assault on the leaders – but his body, which was suffering heading into the event, let the three-time world champion down.
“I had an issue with my left calf in the last two weeks leading up to the race,” explained the German.
“After the swim I was in a good position, but my complete left leg went numb. We do not know exactly what happened. I got a couple of checks done, but we found no real reason.
“This was the only real opportunity to shine this year and I wasn’t able to.”
The good news is that the 36-year-old is recovering well from the setback, although he admits he is upset with himself for allowing the injury to hamper him.
“The recovery is going well,” he reported. “My calf problem turned into an Achilles problem again, but that’s something I can handle.
“I’m just very upset with myself, because I made a couple of mistakes I should not make with my experience in the sport.”
Norden: ‘I knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish’
The PTO 2020 Championship seemed to be going swimmingly for Sweden’s Lisa Norden heading into the final discipline of the race.
The 2012 Olympic silver medallist was in pole position heading into the second transition, leading eventual winner Paula Findlay off the bike and into T2.
However, disaster was about to strike the 36-year-old.
“My legs were working, the heart rate was low, my watts were good, it felt easy and controlled; it was quite amazing,” Norden said of the first two stages of the race.
“The further into the race I got, the more convinced I was going to be fine, and I got all the way to the backside of the track – which was about 3km into the run – when I felt a sudden twitch in my calf. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish.”
The Swede was forced to retire with a calf injury that had been causing her problems in her preparation for the race – but one she thought she would be able to overcome.
“I tore my calf two and a half weeks before the race,” the Swede explained, “it was during an easy morning run, nothing spectacular, but I kind of knew straight away that it was bad news.
“We did a scan, but nothing showed up, I also could [put a] load on it without pain and even do some small jumps so we hoped the turnaround wouldn’t take too long.
“I did a test run two days before the race and it felt absolutely fine so we decided to go into the race with a 100% intention of racing hard and smart.”
Despite the disappointment of Daytona, recovery is going well for the Scandinavian as she prepares to take on the 2021 season – and a step up to full distance triathlon.
“It would have been easier to swallow if the leg literally was falling off,” Norden joked when discussing her recovery from Daytona.
“It required one week of no running before I could start jogging again, and I replaced a lot of the initial load with skiing. Now I’m back in my regular routine.
“The big news for me is a lurking Ironman debut – which is equal parts scary and exciting.
“There are two warm weather camps on the plan this spring and I guess I’ll be on the start line sometime after that once the racing resumes in Europe.“
Calf injury causes chaos for Brownlee
Another unfortunate victim of the unforgiving Daytona International Speedway® was two-time Olympic gold medallist Alistair Brownlee – who led the race for a good portion of the bike discipline.
The 32-year-old Briton produced a sensational swim and was part of the lead group heading out of the water, before producing a solid 1:40:58 bike split which kept him in contention at the front of the field.
However, after the first loop of the run, Brownlee was forced to retire due to injury.
“I was actually confident before the race that my calf was going to be okay,” Brownlee explained when discussing the race.
“Waking up on race day, I felt good and was looking forward to racing. Training had gone okay, although I was a bit nervous about my calf and I was just ready to go and race as hard as I could.
“It had been okay for the week before; it was just bad the night before. But I pushed that to the back of my mind.
“Within running the first mile I got into my stride and started feeling good, but soon my calf started to hurt and I knew it was going to be tough to finish the race.
“Within the race there were obviously lots of obstacles to overcome. It was a long-distance triathlon, which is always hard, but the big obstacle I couldn’t overcome was the problem with my calf.”