Meet Paula Newby-Fraser, the most decorated Ironman champion

Newby-Fraser kicks butt on the course. Credit: Provided
Newby-Fraser kicks butt on the course.
Credit: Provided

Who says a dude needs to win Ironman? With eight victories to her name, Paula Newby-Fraser is the most decorated Ironman Triathlon World Champion. She hasn’t taken part in Ironman for more than a decade, and although her speed record was broken, her championship record still stands. The athlete laughs at the irony that a woman holds the record, but says, “From its beginnings, one thing that appealed to me is that it was open to anyone, men or women. The only requirement was your athletic ability.”

The Ironman consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon (26.2 miles). “It’s not often that an athlete is perfect in three sports, but triathlons demand that,” Newby-Fraser says.

The athlete started as a swimmer in high school in her native South Africa, and picked up on the Ironman just as triathlons were developing in the early 1980s. “I like the mix,” she says. “It’s an interesting challenge, trying to find the balance and bring it all together as one sport.”

Whether you’re training for Ironman, a triathlon or just want to get off the couch, Newby-Fraser offers this advice:

“Figure out what a consistent integration of a training schedule is for your life. Training has to bond with your schedule. Consistency is key, and then it becomes a part of who you are. Once it’s part of your life, then anything becomes possible.”

The hardest part

Many would probably agree with her: “Swimming is the hardest,” Newby-Fraser says. “Running is the easiest,” she says. “It’s become my favorite.”

The Ironman Triathlon World Championship is held annually in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. This year’s race will be screened by NBC on Saturday, Nov. 16, at 4:30 p.m. 


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