Chelsea Sodaro landed a stunning win at the 2022 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii after decimating the competition on the 26.2-mile marathon – just 18 months after giving birth.
Sodaro’s lightning marathon (2:51:45) – one of the fastest in the event's history – catapulted her from fifth to first as she won by almost eight minutes from Britain’s Lucy Charles-Barclay. Anne Haug, the 2019 world champion, took bronze.
The 33-year-old, who previously admitted she was considering quitting the pro circuit until she learnt of the PTO’s paid maternity policy, became the first athlete to win on their Big Island debut since 2007. It was also the first win by an American woman since Paula Newby-Fraser in 1996.
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“My mind is a little bit blown right now,” said Sodaro, who was joined by daughter Skylar in her celebrations.
“This is the culmination of things being right in my life and having perspective. This is freakin’ incredible, but the greatest gift at the end of the finish line is my little 18-month-old.
“This is a life highlight that I’ll never forget. I’m pretty stoked that I think I maybe get to take the rest of the year off and be a mum for a month or so.”
PTO CEO Sam Renouf called the shock win “one of the top results in the sport”.
“She may have been a dark horse going into the race, but the manner of her win was emphatic and I’m so pleased for her and her lovely family,” he said.
“When you consider what she’s achieved only 18 months after having her daughter Skylar, this has to be counted as one of the top results in the sport.”
‘This initiative says the PTO cares about women’
After finishing third at the PTO Canadian Open in July, Sodaro admitted that learning about the generous maternity package had left her “emotional”.
“I found out about the maternity policy when I was five or six months pregnant,” she said at the time.
“So it wasn’t a factor that went into my decision making when I got pregnant. But when I found out about the policy, it actually made me quite emotional. Because it’s 2022 but we still have so far to go in the way that we support woman.
“But this initiative says the PTO cares about women, it cares about female athletes, it cares about keeping us in the sport and seeing us through all the phases of our athletic career.
“And women peak in our mid to late 30s in this long stuff and so we need the opportunities to be able to stay in the sport. And we shouldn’t have to choose between being world class athletes and being moms. We can do it both. We just need some support.”
The PTO’s maternity policy allows women to take up to 15 months' leave – from the pregnancy date through to six months after birth.
The PTO, a new body which is co-owned by the professional athletes, fixes an athlete’s world ranking at the time of pregnancy, with monthly bonuses paid out based on this fixed ranking.
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