No Surprise: Athlete Profile of Kona Champ Chelsea Sodaro

article and images by Marvin Manalang

Almost every triathlon publication did not list her as a favorite coming in the pre-race hype that comes along the race in the big island.  And when American Chelsea Sodaro beat two heavy favorites in Lucy Charles of Great Britain by 7 minutes 50 seconds and Anne Haug of Germany by 8 minutes and 35 seconds, everyone was stunned, including this writer.

I was positioned at Ali’i Drive waiting after their T2 entry and was expecting Daniela Ryf or Lucy Charles at the front, and either erstwhile leader Langridge, Anne Haug or Lisa Norden running third.  By the time they arrived at my position, the pro triathlete wearing the red suit with CHELSEA at her bib was galloping at third position.  Who is Chelsea, and why did she has the smoothest and most relaxed stride of the Pros that has passed me. A quick google churned up Chelsea Sodaro, American Pro triathlete, but did not have time to browse through deeper.

They all came back at Ali’i Drive with Lucy still holding up her form and the lead.  Sodaro had passed The Angry Bird for 2nd at mile 4 and was closing in on the lead.   Quick eye-test on Ryf had me saying she was on a bit of a struggle.   A quicker glance on the bounding Sodaro has me saying she will catch the lead and will pass Charles-Barclay.

When Sodaro did grab the lead by mile 8, she never looked back.  Even when commentators where waiting for a late blow-up, Sodaro had padded her lead, mile after mile, and even jogging to get needed nutrition at the stations.  Chelsea was comfortable.

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College Track and ITU History

Chelsea’s race-best 2:51.45 marathon leg split was no fluke.  She was a college track star, and finished 19th in the US Track time trials for the 2016 Olympics in the 10km distance.  She timed 34 minutes and 22 seconds, despite competing injured.   Upon the suggestion of her husband, she took up triathlon after.

A quick look at her ITU career, she had 5 podiums including a breakthrough win at the 2018 Huatulco triathlon World Cup.  Just like the likes of Frodeno and now Blummenfelt, the ITU pedigree resulted in running prowess.

While the run speed is no surprise, what would be stunning would be that Kona win was just her 2nd start at the Ironman distance and 18 months off from giving birth to her first child.  Sodaro had multiple 70.3 wins under her belt, but a rookie win in Kona is a rare thing.  The last time it was done, it was 15 years ago in 2007, with the maiden win of 4-time champion Chrissie Wellington.

Family Team

Sodaro had given quick appreciation to the family support given to her; “This is a real family operation,” Sodaro proudly told the Kona crowd. “I don’t have a super big, flashy team around me, but I have an incredible team. My dad has sagged all of my rides for the last month. My mom has helped with childcare. My husband is a firefighter. This is for them.”

With the win and a $125,000 payout, the same winner’s purse with the Men’s race Saturday, the Sodaro household will definitely look and feel different.

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But for now, Sodaro will relish taking time off to catch up on family bonding; “This is incredible. This is a life highlight, I will never forget this. I’m pretty stoked that I think I get to take the rest of the year off and be a Mom for a month or so.”

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