Matt Russell's emotional year ends with a spot at the Ironman World Championship

A third-place finish at Ironman Mont-Tremblant wasn’t quite enough to get him to the Ironman World Championship, but a wild-card entry means we’ll see Matt Russell back on the Big Island.

| August 24, 2018 | PERSONALITY

Matt Russell finishes third at Ironman Mont-Tremblant.

Matt Russell finishes third at Ironman Mont-Tremblant.

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon

Ten months after he was in a horrifying accident during the Ironman World Championship, Matt Russell's amazing comeback to racing culminated last weekend with an impressive third-place finish at Ironman Mont-Tremblant. Shortly after he celebrated on the podium with Cody Beals and Lionel Sanders ...

Lionel Sanders, Cody Beals and Matt Russell celebrate their podium finishes at Ironman Mont-Tremblant.

Lionel Sanders, Cody Beals and Matt Russell celebrate their podium finishes at Ironman Mont-Tremblant.

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon

... I asked Russell how emotional it was for him to run down the finish chute knowing he'd nailed third.

"Definitely emotional," Russell said. "My whole family has been through a lot the last 10 months. Just to finish on the podium – coming down the finishing chute, all the emotions roll out. I’m glad because all the hard work and all the emotional pain and physical pain was worth it."

As if the accident in Kona wasn't enough, Russell and his wife found themselves facing other health issues, as well.

"My wife has had some issues post-delivery – our baby was three months old in Kona," Russell said. "When she delivered she had some pelvic floor issues and that was really tough. She was doing physical therapy and then I got injured and she had to take care of the baby full time. Then she ended up having major surgery, so I had to take care of the baby full time for six weeks when I was trying to recover. It’s been really, really tough for us, so it’s good to have some high moments. There’s definitely been a lot of low moments. When there’s struggle, there’s growth and I’m glad it came together today."
 

As he does at every Ironman finish line, Matt Russell does the \"Blazeman roll.\" The roll got its name from Jon Blais, who finished the Ironman World Championship while suffering from ALS and rolled across the finish line. Russell\'s mother passed away from the disease when Russell was 13 years old.

As he does at every Ironman finish line, Matt Russell does the "Blazeman roll." The roll got its name from Jon Blais, who finished the Ironman World Championship while suffering from ALS and rolled across the finish line. Russell's mother passed away from the disease when Russell was 13 years old.

Photo >Kevin Mackinnon

It certainly did come together for Russell, who finished behind a record-setting day by Cody Beals and last year's runner-up in Kona, Lionel Sanders. Russell said the result provides some much-needed relief after the difficult 10-months since Kona.

"[There have been] so many sacrifices for the whole family," he said. "It hasn’t been easy. Sometimes I question myself. I even had a family member say, maybe it’s time to retire. Obviously I think about these things. I still have a lot of love and compassion for the sport. I’ve always said there will be three reason’s why I won’t [continue in the sport]: 1) If I don’t have the passion anymore, 2) If I am injured and I can’t continue, or 3) I’m not able to make a living at it. So far none of those are the case, so I’ll continue. I feel like there’s a lot more in my heart to give and that’s why I’m here today."

In the end the third-place finish in the standings left Russell just 15 points short in the Kona Points Ranking system, but on Wednesday he got a call from Ironman CEO Andrew Messick, who offered Russell a spot in Kona. After consulting with his family, he decided to accept it.

"Kona does have a special place in my heart," Russell said. "In 2016 we brought back a special souvenir from Hawaii – that was our son. Our son has a Hawaiian name – Makaio. The Big Island holds a special place in our heart for multiple reasons now."