A four-time world champion and the first woman to win the Ironman 70.3 and Ironman titles in the same year, Leanda Cave has decided to call it a career.
May 18, 2018 | PERSONALITY|
Who can ever forget the magical fall Leanda Cave enjoyed in 2012? It seems like the fall has always served the four-time world champion from Wales well. A year before she'd had an amazing string in October and November, including a third in Kona, a win at Ironman 70.3 Miami, a runner-up finish at the ITU Long Distance World Championship and then her first Ironman title in Arizona.
It seemed like it would be hard to top that impressive run of racing, but a year later she did just that, taking the Ironman 70.3 world title, where she led from the gun, then gutting out a dramatic Ironman World Championship in Kona. She was the first woman to ever achieve that tough double. For the win in Hawaii she had to hold off no less an athlete than three-time Kona champ Mirinda Carfrae, considered the sport's premier runner, who caught up to Cave heading into the famed Energy Lab with roughly 10 mles to go. Cave refused to let the Australian by, eventually pulled clear and set off in pursuit of race leader Caroline Steffen. She made that pass with two miles to go and ran down Alii Drive in front to take the Kona title.
That year the producers of the Ironman World Championship show that appeared on NBC featured Cave, who captivated the audience thanks to her easy-going nature and fun-loving personality. The show caught Cave relaxing the night before the world's biggest triathlon with a glass of wine - she seemed considerably more relaxed than most age-groupers might be the night before the year's biggest race. Her incredible sense of perspective shone through, making it hard not to root for her.
That's not to say that Cave wasn't a fierce competitor. No one holds off Mirinda Carfrae on the Queen K in Kona without an incredible desire to win, nor do you win an ITU world title, an ITU world long distance championship or two Ironman world titles in the same year unless you have a huge competitive streak. What made Cave so special, though, was her ability to turn that competitive drive on and off - the switch was hit when the gun went off at the start, then turned off once she came across the finish line. For much of her career she would cross those finish lines standing up, then go back for another pass, this time rolling across the line in memory of Jon Blais, who finished the Ironman World Championship in 2005 with ALS. Yet another sign of Cave's amazing class.
"If you are asking why I choose to retire now, the answer is simple: it’s time," Cave wrote on her website announcing the retirement. "During my 18-year racing career, I have had a lot of success and equally as many failures. However, this 40-year-old body can no longer do what it found so easy in its 20’s and early 30’s. For some, this would be no reason to stop. For me, I was left with no choice. The need to achieve great things is part of my DNA and as this slowly slipped away, so did my love for the sport. It became a chore to train, and I found it harder and harder to motivate myself to race. I know my body so well. I know what it feels like to be in the sort of shape to win big. I couldn’t get there anymore, so the enjoyment was gone. I still want to achieve big and I am going to make that happen in a different way."
Cave is a lifer in the sport, so we can expect to see her around for many years to come. She's building up her coaching company, public speaking, writing a book and helping companies with product testing and design. One of those companies is, of course, Ventum, which is co-owned by her "other half," Diaa Nour."
Sure we'll miss seeing her race, but Leanda Cave's legacy isn't likely to leave our sport any time soon. Always incredibly accessible to both the media and fans alike, she's always led by example and been willing to provide insight and inspiration. Her closing words in her "retirement announcement" say it all:
"As a final note, for those young female triathletes out there who may feel there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Look up, get up, and don’t ever give up. Remember, I was there too. Triathlon has shaped me into a strong, independent woman and I believe this sport can help so many, young and old."