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Originally published Sunday, October 12, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Women's Ironman champ gives thanks

For The Associated Press KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — Chrissie Wellington said the help she received from a fellow competitor on the way...

For The Associated Press

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — Chrissie Wellington said the help she received from a fellow competitor on the way to her second consecutive Ironman Triathlon World Championship women's title "epitomizes everything great about the Ironman."

The 31-year-old triathlete from Britain had a lead of about 5 minutes when her tire went flat near the 90-mile mark of the 112-mile bicycle ride. Air canisters she carried didn't work, she said, but Rebekah Keat of Australia came to the rescue.

Keat stopped, gave Wellington another canister, and the defending champion was on her way again. It cost her about 10 minutes and the lead, which she quickly regained and held throughout the marathon run.

"Without it, I wouldn't have finished or would have finished way back with the age-groupers," she said.

Her winning time Saturday was 9 hours, 6 minutes, 23 seconds. Yvonne Van Vlerken of Austria was second in 9:21:20.

Craig Alexander of Australia came from behind to win the men's title in 8:17:45.

The 35-year-old from Sydney was 11th at the end of the bike ride, but ran a strong marathon to take the lead shortly after the 18-mile mark.

He said he drew on the support from former champions Dave Scott, Mark Allen and Scott Tinley, who encouraged him from the sidelines along the way.

"It was a thrill to see those guys out there," said Alexander, second last year in his first Hawaii Ironman attempt.

The weather was much worse than last year, with the athletes having to deal with choppy seas in the 2.4-mile swim, gusty crosswind on the bike and heat from the sunduring both the bike and the run.

"It was a hard race," Alexander said. "But I was prepared for a hard day and had trained for wind."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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