World Championships winners

by ITU Admin on 03 Jun, 2008 12:00

By: Chris Hill

The ITU world championships are the annual showpiece of triathlon. The sport rolls out its blue transition carpet to the nations of the world who respond by sending their most potent six member teams.

Competition is at its fiercest at the world championships and victory means instant triathlon greatness. The fact that some of the athletes appear greedywinning more than one titleshould not be held against them. Who amongst us would not do the same if offered the choice?

Here is the world championships year by glorious year; from its inception in 1989 to the present day. Sadly the list stops at the 19th championship, but this discounts the delicious proposition of adding two more names to the list of triathlons best after Vancouver 2008.

1989: Avignon, France
The best triathlete the world has ever seen American Mark Allen was a deserving winner of first official world championships. Minutes down out of the water, Allen showed his class to wear down all other men.

Unflappable Kiwi Erin Baker won the womens race with a typically gutsy show going head to head with Jan Ripple. She had won the unofficial world championships two years before in Perth, Australia as a warm-up.

1990: Orlando, USA
Australias mighty mite Greg Welch won in Orlando, jumping across the line and clicking his heels together like a little leprechaun. He would go on to win world titles in duathlon, long course and Ironman.

All-American sweetheart Karen Smyers won her first of two world championships on the Florida Disneyland triathlon course beating Canadian Carol Montgomery and American Joy Hansen

1991: Gold Coast, Australia
Aussie Miles Stewart single-handedly put triathlon on the map in Australia with his gripping Gold Coast win. He won by resigning two of the greats of the sport, Mike Pigg and Rick Wells, to the past with his trademark sprint.

Joanne Ritchie is Canadas only world champion in the elite race. She beat home compatriot Terri Smith and Aussie Michellie Jones that day along the Gold Coasts Broadwater.

1992: Muskoka, Canada
Muskoka would be Briton Simon Lessings first of four world championship wins. Lessing had all three sports in the bag from the start of his career but it was his killer run that sealed victory on most occasions.

Michellie Jones won her first world title which provided the impetus to become the most successful female world championship performer in the history of triathlon. In all she won seven worlds medals.

1993: Manchester, Great Britain
British biking brute Spencer Smith relished the non-drafting format in damp Manchester to win his first world title. His father Bill, waiting with open arms, hugged him on the finish line after his famous victory on home soil.

Michellie Jones beat Karen Smyers in a sprint up a crowded Manchester street to take her second consecutive world title. She was so chuffed with her worlds wins that she named her two puppies ‘Manny’ (Manchester) and ‘Skokie’ (Muskoka) after the venues where she won.

1994: Wellington, New Zealand
Spencer Smith won the worlds again. He was super confident having triumphed the year before blowing kisses to the crowd at the 5-kilometer turnaround marker. This showmanship took immense bravado considering Aussie Brad Beven was chasing behind in second.

Australian Emma Carney, only new to the sport, ran the entire 10-kilometer with her cap in her hand. Perhaps she was so overwhelmed with her stunning run she forgot to put it on. That, or there was no need for a sun visor on the freezing Wellington day.

1995: Cancun, Mexico
Simon Lessing won his second world championship as the sport went from non-drafting to a drafting format. Lessing, the most versatile triathlete of all time, seamlessly made the jump from an individual time trialing dominated race to pack riding.

Karen Smyers won her second world championship with a comfortable swim/bike and a virtuoso run in the scorching heat of Cancun. What made the feat all the more impressive was that she won the Hawaii Ironman only five weeks before.

1996: Cleveland, USA
Simon Lessing took his third triathlon world title in Cleveland. Away in a four man breakaway Lessing was a sure thing on the run leg beating Belgian Luc Van Lierde. All up Lessing would win seven world champs medals making him the best male performer at the world championship level.

Australian Jackie Fairweather (nee Gallagher) took the world title in Cleveland having placed second the year before. She proved that she could dominate in all forms of multisport by winning the world duathlon championships a few weeks later.

1997: Perth, Australia
Hometown hero Chris McCormack surprised race favourite Simon Lessing and himself to win in front of a huge crowd. McCormack was the new breed of triathlete who made Lessings routine bike/run transition look sluggish, contributing to his defeat.

Emma Carney won her second world title in a duel with Jackie Fairweather that made a boxing title fight look like a childrens party in comparison. During this time, Carney was the most dominant athlete on the planet amassing 19 world cup wins.

1998: Lausanne, Switzerland
Proving he was a true champion, Simon Lessing bounced back to win his fourth world title on the tough Lausanne course. Like a mountain stage of the Tour de France the crowd parted each lap to let the riders through on the steeper sections of the bike course.

Aussie Joanne King had the best and most important swim of her career making the front bike pack. This was vital as she was a known poor swimmer. After this the race was over, her run being so strong.

1999: Montreal, Canada
Kazakhstans Dmitriy Gaag unleashed a sprint that Maurice Green would have been proud of to take the world championship from Simon Lessing. Unfortunately, the Kazak anthem was not in the repertoire of the race disc jockey so the Chariots of Fire theme was played for Gaag instead.

Australian Loretta Harrop clinched a world title that had been promised her for years as one of the most dominate world cup athletes. Following her lead, the Australian women (Fairweather, Carney, Jones and King) took the top five placings.

2000: Perth, Australia
Frenchman turned Swiss Olivier Marceau completed his build up for the world championships on Australias Gold Coast. It proved to be a sound decision as he swam, rode and ran like ten men that April day.

Nicole Hackett won the race with a run split of about 25 minutes. It was not a new 10-kilometer world record, just an ill-measured course. This fact did not sour the win for Hackett who rightfully maintained that she rationed her energy reserves for the course that was laid out.

2001: Edmonton, Canada
With a couple of bike laps remaining Australian Peter Robertson positioned himself into a group of four that accumulated a 30-second lead at the bike/run transition. All were caught in the group except Robertson who ran so well, he probably didnt need the 30-second advantage going into the run that day. 

American Siri Lindley lit up the world championships course like a fourth of July cracker. No woman had appeared to run as quickly as Lindley did that day. It was the culmination of a stunning career.

2002: Cancun, Mexico
Slight Spaniard Ivan Rana had been building up to this win for some time. He had a ball in the oppressively hot Cancun conditions surging to victory with his impressive run strength.

American Barb Lindquists meltdown in sight of the finish line while leading turned the race in Briton Leanda Caves favour. Though it was Caves threatening presence, lurking behind that probably dictated the Americans pace and ultimately her fate. In contrast at the finish, Cave looked like she could have run another couple of laps if required.

2003: Queenstown, New Zealand
Peter Robertson slipped away in the bike ride with Olivier Marceau to notch up the Australians second title. Meanwhile, the chasing pack back-pedalled, unconvinced that two former world champions could win again with such a brazened tactic. The chase pack was wrong.

Australias super powered sparrow Emma Snowsill surprised herself in Queenstown but not those who had seen her stunning lead-in form. She effortlessly zipped over the undulating golf course run to take the world title in fine fashion.

2004: Madeira, Portugal
In a show of sportsmanship that will be remembered forever in world championship history, Kiwi Beven Docherty touched hands with Ivan Rana in a spirit of goodwill before unleashing a perfect sprint that took him to world championship glory.

American Sheila Taormina won swimming gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the 200m relay. She used all this swimming prowess and considerable heart on the run to win the world title in Madeira.

2005: Gamagori, Japan
Peter Roberson magically danced ten seconds in front of the chasing pack for most of the run to win his third world title. Coming down the impossibly long Gamagori finish straight like the leader of an army of ants, Robertson checked his margin in the big screen televising the race to his left and timed his win to perfection.

Emma Snowsill blew the rest of the world away again securing her another title at the first Japanese-staged world championship. Her winning time was almost two minutes ahead of second place.

2006: Lausanne, Switzerland
The UKs Tim Don returned to the course where he won his junior world title eight years before and repeated the performance as an elite. Don proved his win was deserved riding solo across to the lead pack then topped it off with a floorless run.

Emma Snowsill became the first woman to win three world titles on the tough Swiss course. She took victory by 46 seconds ahead of her biggest rival, Portugals Vanessa Fernandes.

2007: Hamburg, Germany
German Daniel Unger paused for a split second before he crossed the line to take the world title. He knew life would never get this good again. It was not only a great personal milestone but it was the first German win at a world championship race.

Freakishly talented Portuguese triathlete Vanessa Fernandes finally won the world championship that somehow had not come her way. She put together a faultless swim/bike/ run combination to cruise to her first world championship victory.

So there you have it - world championship history from 1989 to 2007, which means there are only three things left to say: Well done world champions, congratulations ITU, and Happy 20th Birthday World Championships.

Former World Number one Chris Hill brings his unique elite athlete perspective in weekly columns to ITUs website,  He competed on the ITU World Cup circuit, winning three titles and ten medals in total.  He was crowned the overall World Cup series champion in 2001.  That same year he was silver medalist at the ITU World Championships in Edmonton, Canada.  Watch for Chris Hills regular column, Olympic Odyssey every week on

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