A New York para-athlete has become the first American woman handcyclist to complete the Ironman World Championship — defeating a Chicago woman competing for the same honor.
In the 17-hour triathlon Saturday in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Susan Katz, a Chicago para-athlete, missed the bike cutoff by 6 minutes, 30 seconds, while Minda Dentler, of New York, the only other American woman competing, finished the race and nabbed a slot in the history books.
"I am so proud of her and the amazing, history-making day she had," Katz said about Dentler's finish, adding she was disappointed in her own performance.
"It just wasn't enough," she said.
For her part, Dentler said she and Katz were neck-and-neck for most of the race. While Katz barely missed the biking cutoff, Dentler made it by a mere 3 minutes.
"It was so awesome to have (Katz) on the course. We were cheering for each other."
The Ironman was founded in 1978 to find out whether swimmers, bikers or runners were the best athletes. It includes a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run. Each segment has a strict cutoff time that if missed disqualifies participants from finishing. Just a few handcyclists qualify for the World Championship each year. This was Katz's third time competing and Dentler's second.
Upon completing the swim, Katz and Dentler propelled themselves on handcycles. After Dentler made the cycling cutoff, she pushed herself in a manual racing wheelchair for the running segment.
Katz, a Streeterville resident, was born with spina bifida, an incomplete fusion of the spinal cord. She began using a wheelchair when she was 10, after surgery to relieve pressure in her back left her partially paralyzed.
Soon after, her mom introduced her to wheelchair basketball. She pursued the sport through college at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, making the national team in 1998. Among other accomplishments, she went to the Paralympics in 2004, where the U.S. women's wheelchair basketball team won a gold medal.
Dentler contracted polio as a baby in India, resulting in paralysis of her legs. She's done more than a dozen triathlons and was a member of the 2010 USA Paratriathlon National Team, among other sporting achievements.
Katz, who sometimes trained for the triathlon on the Chicago lakeshore, said she's a "never say never" kind of person, but she won't be visiting the Kona Ironman next year.
"It's been a long four years chasing this dream and it's time for me to take a break and focus on other things in my life for a little bit," Katz said. "There's a chance Kona hasn't seen the last of me, but it will be a while before I return."Copyright © 2015, RedEye