Age / DOB
Mar 08 1993
After first retiring “aged about ten”, Imogen Simmonds has been busy making up for lost time since taking up triathlon again at 21!
She’s one of the fastest-rising talents in the sport, with an incredible 2019 seeing her make the podium at the 70.3 World Championship in Nice and finish second on her IRONMAN debut at Frankfurt to qualify for Kona, where she was an impressive 12th.
Imogen was born in Hong Kong in 1993 and spent the first nine years of her life there before moving to Switzerland, under whose flag she now races.
Her winters are spent training in Phuket, with the stifling heat and humidity standing her in good stead for those breakout full-distance performances at Frankfurt and Kona.
And she’s going from strength to strength.
After those 2019 exploits, she started 70.3 Dubai in early February 2020 as arguably the race favourite – and didn’t disappoint by powering to an emphatic victory.
Quite a ‘comeback’
Imogen – or ‘Imo’ as she’s also known – remembers taking part in her first triathlon aged 10, but there weren’t many sports she didn’t try out through her school and college years.
Her first visit to Thailand came as an eight-year-old when she represented Hong Kong in an international swimming meeting.
She has also been involved in plenty of team sports, including lacrosse for Imperial College London. And it was around that time that the first seeds for that triathlon return were sown.
She’d been doing plenty of running and explains: “When I was at University, a friend suggested I try out a duathlon – it was my first ever time on a race bike!”
Duathlon soon morphed into triathlon, and the ‘comeback’ event came in 2014.
It didn’t take her long to make a mark as her next race saw her qualify for the World Championship as an age grouper.
By 2016 she’d won the IRONMAN 70.3 18-24 Age Group World Championship in Australia, at that point racing for Great Britain, for whom Holly Lawrence landed the elite title.
So it was no surprise that by now she’d decided to make triathlon her career.
After completing her studies (she has a Masters degree in Environmental Technology and Business and also speaks more languages fluently, including Chinese, than there are triathlon disciplines) she headed back to Phuket.
She’d met former pro Jürgen Zäck there in 2014 on a family holiday, since when he’d set up the Z-Coaching training group which she was to join.
“It’s a good balance between having fun and taking it seriously,” says Imogen as she looks back on her start as a professional.
“I’m fortunate enough to have travelled a fair amount with the sport and trained with some awesome athletes that have managed to put up with me!
“In Phuket, my winter base, we have a fair few pros coming through to do heat training – [former 70.3 and IRONMAN World Champions] Michael Raelert and Patrick Lange are some of the regulars.
“I also train in St Moritz, where I’ve been able to learn from an awesome group, including Laura Philipp.”
The first pro season in 2017 didn’t go entirely smoothly though, with a broken collarbone in March halting progress for a while. But the end of the campaign more than hinted at the promise to come.
First up, in mid-November, she was second – just 12 seconds adrift – in IRONMAN 70.3 Xiamen after an absorbing battle with Eimear Mullan.
And two weeks later came the first victory, fittingly in Phuket, at 70.3 Thailand where she reversed the form with Mullan.
She came out of the water in third, but a best-of-the-day bike split gave her an advantage of 2:39 at T2. And she extended that with a 1:24:54 half marathon to cross the line nearly five minutes ahead of Mullan.
The progress continued in 2018 as Imogen moved into the very highest echelons of the sport.
She got closest of all – albeit 15 minutes behind – to the all-conquering Daniela Ryf at IRONMAN 70.3 Switzerland in June and then produced arguably her best performance to date at the 70.3 World Championship at Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with a sixth-placed finish.
The podium that day was Swiss compatriot Ryf, Lucy Charles and Anne Haug. Quite a progression from age-group racing just two years earlier.
And then she went one better than 2017 with victory at 70.3 Xiamen.
Which meant she headed into what proved to be a stellar 2019 full of confidence, all the time developing her endurance with longer rides and runs, with an eye on a potential full-distance debut.
The first victory came not in a triathlon but the Geneva Half Marathon before a crushing success in 70.3 Luxembourg, where she blew her rivals away on the bike, nearly five minutes faster than the next best.
And then came her IRONMAN bow at Frankfurt, also the European Championship. What a brutally compelling day that proved to be.
Going the distance
For Simmonds, that first IRONMAN was another breakthrough moment.
She was right up there after the swim and then took the lead on the bike – even though she’d said her main aim “was just to finish”.
But deep into the marathon, the drama was happening elsewhere.
By now, the title looked sure to go to American Sarah True, who held a seven-minute advantage over Skye Moench.
But in the baking heat she had slowed to a walk and was then simply unable to continue, agonisingly shutting down 800 metres from the finish and missing out on a first title and Kona qualification.
Thankfully she made a full recovery that afternoon, but it was Moench who landed the victory, with Simmonds a superb second on debut to book that Hawaii spot.
Next up was the 70.3 World Championship in Nice on an unusually hilly and technical bike course.
After recovering well from Frankfurt, Imogen had been working on her climbing at her Swiss training base, and it paid dividends.
Only winner Ryf was quicker that day on the bike, with Simmonds a clear-cut third overall and on the podium at the very highest level – nearly three minutes head of Chelsea Sodaro, with Charles-Barclay in fifth and Radka Kahlefeldt sixth.
“It took a little while to sink in,” admits Imogen, but she didn’t have much time to dwell as her third huge Championship race in a row was on the horizon.
From the Cote d’Azur to the Big Island she went, and the fairytale year continued as she almost made the top 10 on her Kona debut.
Imogen was right in the mix until dropping back slightly in the marathon, but 12th place was a superb first attempt – and a spot ahead of reigning champ Ryf, who had been gunning for a fifth straight win.
A well-deserved rest came after that – though she was still able to rock up and win the Laguna Phuket Triathlon in November on her winter training patch to put the seal on a spectacular campaign.