Ironman World Championships Contenders: The Women

Chrissie Wellington (UK)

Care to bet against the three-time world champion? Didn't think so. Sure, she had a nasty (but not serious) crash off the bike in September but that's not the sort of thing that bothers her. This year she set a new Ironman-distance record at Challenge Roth (8:18:32), breaking her own record, and she also won Ironman South Africa. She has never lost an Ironman race. She is unlikely to lose this one.

Julie Dibens (UK)

The 36-year-old from Salisbury came third at Kona in 2010, a remarkable result considering it was her first Ironman. She's having a good year, with wins in the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon, the New Orleans 70.3, the Rev 3 Quassy and the Coeur d'Alene Ironman. She set a course record of 9:16:40, but still found room to criticise her performance. The three-time Xterra World Champion asks a lot of herself and it seems to be paying off.

Mirinda Carfrae (Aus)

At her first Kona, in 2009, Carfrae smashed the run course record (2:56:51) and came second, behind Chrissie Wellington. Last year she won, with the fourth fastest women's time (8:58:36) at Kona; she also knocked three minutes off her run course record. This year, the 30-year-old she has won Rohto Ironman 70.3 California and Subaru Ironman 70.3 Eagleman. She tends to take little account of the received wisdom that you should save something for the run. She goes all out and doesn't stop and says she does her best running off the bike.

Caroline Steffen (Sui)

The woman known to her TBB teammates as Xena, Warrior Princess, was runner-up last year in Kona, her first race there as a pro. She also won the ITU Long Distance World Championships. This year she has won Ironman Australia (9:29:54), and Ironman Germany (9:12:13). The former pro cyclist is a powerhouse on the bike and she simply does not give up. Many have said she reminds them of one Chrissie Wellington.

Mary Beth Ellis (US)

The 34-year-old raced her first Ironman in July, in Austria. She won in 8:43:44, which made her the third-fastest woman over the distance. A month later she won Ironman Regensburg and at the end of August she won Ironman Canada, in a course record time of 9:03:13. She is in blistering form but three Ironman races in relatively quick succession may take their toll in the fierce heat of Kona.

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Find out more about the leading contenders for the men's Ironman World Championship title.