Christchurch mother Gina Crawford capped an outstanding comeback season with seventh placing at the Ironman World Championships in gruelling conditions in Hawaii today.
Crawford, who returned to competitive ironman racing at the start of the year following the birth of her son Benji, sealed her comeback with her best ever performance in arguably the world's toughest one-day endurance test.
The fierce trade winds added to the testing temperatures on the Big Island, but Crawford managed seventh in 9:28.54 to lead the way for the New Zealanders.
Seven-time Ironman New Zealand champion Joanna Lawn finished 21st, while Cameron Brown was forced out with illness.
The 40-year-old Brown, a 10-time Ironman New Zealand winner, was unable to start after suffering from breathing difficulties.
"I've been suffering from the VOG (volcanic fumes) from the volcano here on the Big Island," Brown said. "A lot of people have sore throats and allergies and I'm one of them. My whole family is coughing and have scratchy throats and I was hoping it would come right very quickly."
However, this morning Brown was unable to breathe freely and was forced to withdraw from the race.
That left Crawford to lead the Kiwi charge. She was third out of the water in 55.59 and remained in the top 10 with a solid 5:21.30 effort for the 180km cycle.
Her 3:06.16 marathon run was the fifth-fastest which saw her push up to seventh, beating the eighth placing she achieved in 2008 and picking up more than $17,000 prizemoney in the process.
Great Britain's Leanda Cave celebrated the double, winning her first Ironman title just five weeks after winning the half-ironman world championship in Las Vegas.
Sydneysider Pete Jacobs took out the men's honours, the sixth straight year an Australian has won the world championship.
Ironman World Championship results (3.8km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run):
Elite women: Leanda Cave (GBR) 9:15.54, 1; Caroline Steffen (SUI) 9:16.58, 2; Mirinda Carfrae (AUS) 9:21.41, 3. Also: Gina Crawford (NZL) 9:28.54, 7; Joanna Lawn (NZL) 9:55.11, 21.
Elite men: Pete Jacobs (AUS) 8:18.37, 1; Andreas Raelert (GER) 8:23.40, 2; Fred Van Lierde (BEL) 8:24.09, 3.