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Mexico’s De La Parra, Australia’s Bevilaqua claim Ultraman World titles

November 28, 2016 - 12:05am

After a grueling three days of swimming, biking and running across the Big Island, the Ultraman World Championships concluded at Old Airport Park on Sunday with a pair of brand new champions who have wasted little time finding their way into the upper echelon of the sport.

Mexico’s Inaki De La Parra was the top overall finisher despite only competing in his second World Championship. He finished in a time of 22 hours, 34 minutes and 18 seconds. De La Parra was followed by Rob Gray (23:18:22), and Tony O’Keeffe (23:22:31) rounded out the top three.

“This has been the culmination of a long period of preparation for this race,” De La Parra said. “I have watched all these legends race — now I am the new generation and I am so excited being able to race with some of these guys.”

Australia’s Kate Bevilaqua was the top female runner, finishing her first World Championship appearance in a time of 24:44:04. She placed sixth overall. Bevilaqua was followed by Canada’s Tara Norton (27:56:49) and Kailua-Kona’s Stacie Studer (28:42:29).

“I am pretty overwhelmed right now,” Bevilaqua said shortly after crossing the finish line. “It’s three long days of racing and there was some great competition. Anything can happen. I was lucky I was the first one to come across the line today. There will definitely be some celebrating.”

De La Parra stayed near the top of the field every day. After the first day of competition, he trailed only Gray after a 6.2-mile swim and 90-mile bike ride. De La Para was not the fastest in the water, but he was dominant on the bike.

The athlete from Mexico trailed by 10 minutes heading into the second day of competition, but with the entire day dedicated to the bike, there was no question he had the advantage.

Over the 141.4-mile bike ride designated for Day 2, De La Parra pulled away, building a 15-minute lead on Grey, who placed second. With nearly a two-day five minute advantage, De La Parry looked to hold on during a grueling 52.4-mile run on the final day.

Last year De La Parra was doomed by the run portion of the competition, but his 10-plus hour time was a direct result of competing while sick. This year, he might not have been the fastest on the final day, but his double marathon time of 7:01:49 was more than enough to pick up the victory, and even widened his lead over Grey, who finished fifth in the run with a time of 7:41:06.

“The results are good but it is really all about enjoying what you do and having fun,” De La Parra said. “I enjoy every moment of the race.”

As anyone who follows Ultraman knows, athletes could not compete without a capable support crew along the way. De La Parra’s crew was led by team captain Jeremy Howard, who finished third at the World Championship last year. Also on the crew were Kasia Sanetra, Glee Jewell and Filip Matoskzo.

“This is not the type of race where you are by yourself. It is all about ohana, all about teamwork,” De La Parra said. “The crew took me to places I did not think I was capable of going.”

While De La Parra’s lead was never in question on the final day, The battle for second place between Colorado’s Grey and Canada’s O’Keeffe was as close as they come in such a long race.

Grey entered the third day with a commanding 40-minute advantage, but O’Keeffe managed to wrap up the double marathon well ahead of the mainland runner with a time of 7:04:43. However, Grey continued to put one leg in front of the other and crossed the finish line about 36 minutes later, to hold on to second place by just over four minutes.

With his overall time, O’Keeffe, who is the oldest competitor at this year’s World Championship, managed to set an age group world record in the Male 50-59 division.

“I think this puts me in some pretty select company,” O’Keeffe said after setting the new mark. “I am delighted, but a record is made to be broken so I am sure it is going to be broken.”

While the record was nice, O’Keeffe said he did not enter just to set a record, he had the mindset for victory.

“I honestly wasn’t thinking of the record. I actually had the gall to think I was going to win,” O’Keeffe said. “That is no disrespect to my competition, but I came in with a plan to race hard and I did.”

In the women’s race, Bevilaqua dominated from Day 1. After the swim and first portion of the bike, she led Canada’s Tara Norton by 13 minutes. Bevilaqua and Norton battled closely on the bike on Day 2, but the Australian was able to add about seven minutes to her lead heading into the double-marathon on the final day.

Bevilaqua left no doubt who would be the female champion on Day 3 when she crossed the finish line first in a double marathon time of 7:59:35. Norton struggled during the run, finishing the double marathon in a time of 10:32:26.

“I had a good first and second day, and running is usually my strength, but today it was brutal,” Bevilaqua said. “I think I went out a little too hard, but my crew was able to keep me together and keep me going.”

Bevilaqua, who is getting married early next year, had a crew led by her best friend and soon to be maid of honor Ruth Change, and her fiance Guy Crawford, as well as Janine Kaye.

“I was nearly crying with my fiance as we were coming down near the end knowing that what I had worked hard for was finally about to happen,” Bevilaqua said. “My fiance made a lot of sacrifices so that I could do this race. He races professionally as a triathlete and has missed some races and training just to help me out.”

Along with Studer, who was the defending World Champion, John Howerton also represented Kailua-Kona and finished 11th with a time of 27:39:15.

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