Lyudmila Voronova, Who Is Made of Steel

A four-kilometer swim, followed by 180 more by bike, then a 42-kilometer run — one after the other, with no breaks. This is the Ironman, one of the most difficult triathlons. At age 61, Lyudmila Voronova, from Novosibirsk, completed this challenge without much difficulty.

“When I was first invited to participate in the Ironman, I thought it was a joke. Itʼs an unbelievable distance, ” says Lyudmila.

An invitation to the Ironman should seem like a joke to any normal person. Any normal person, to put it bluntly, cannot even complete such a distance, not to mention compete for speed.

In this sense, Voronova is absolutely not a normal person. Before her first competition, she trained for only three months. And, she liked it. She began to compete regularly and to win regularly too. She finished first in an Ironman in Korea, then in Austria, and in 2012, won for the third time — in Sweden — and received a very prestigious invitation to participate in the Ironman world championship in Hawaii. But, a trip to Hawaii is a very expensive undertaking. Lyudmila Voronova is a physical education teacher at a Novosibirsk college.

“Aside from my salary, I get a pension, ” she explains. “I live off my salary and keep the pension to save up for triathlon expenses. But, the pension isnʼt enough to get me to Hawaii. So, I talk with my family and decide that if I have to, I will take out a loan. But then, fellow triathlon athletes organized an online campaign and collected enough money for my trip.”

In the end, in spite of financial hurdles, Lyudmila Voronova made it to Hawaii and to the starting line of the race. She was very disappointed with the first leg of the competition. Voronova swam 3.8 kilometers in one hour and 40 minutes; her competitors finished the same distance in a little over an hour.

“My timing killed me, to be honest. They say the waves were big and got in the way. Nothing got in my way — Iʼm just a bad swimmer!” she admits. Voronova decided she would try to make up her lost time in the cycling segment and rushed to catch up to the other athletes. When her legs started seizing up from cramps, she massaged them one at a time, all the while continuing to cycle. For the last leg of the race — a 42 kilometer foot race, Voronova had, in her words, “one simple task” in front of her: to gradually gain speed and pass everyone that she could. In the end, Lyudmila Voronova, at 61, completed the entire Ironman in 14 hours and 25 minutes. In other words, for 14 hours straight, she swam, ran, or cycled. With no breaks, no rest. The 34-year-old world champion, Leanda Cave, finished in nine hours and 16 minutes.

Voronova has big plans for the next few years. She is going to participate in several competitions.

“I keep a record of my times and adjust my trainings based on that, ” she explains.

Now 64, Lyudmila Voronova says:

“Itʼs said that people lose their physical ability with age. Iʼm doing the opposite — Iʼm gaining it.”