Ultimate comback: Paula Newby-Fraser wins her eighth Ironman title in 1996

  • West Hawaii Today file photo World champions Craig Alexander, Paula Newby-Fraser, Heather Fuhr and Mark Allen celebrate their accomplishments at Ironman Heroes of Hawaii in 2015. Newby-Fraser was an eight-time winner of the Ironman World Championship.

Editor’s note: While the sports world is shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, West Hawaii Today will look back every Tuesday at memorable sports moments on the Big Island.

Paula Newby-Fraser ran into Kailua-Kona for the final mile of the 1995 Ironman World Championship in the lead, but fading fast. The triathlete, who had been feeling weak the last few miles of the race, was ahead of eventual winner Karen Smyers by more than a minute.

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Newby-Fraser was already a seven-time winner of the race, and was looking to extend a winning streak that began in 1991 to five straight wins. Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan, as the triathlete struggled to finish the race.

She made her way down Kuakini Highway and was seemingly on her way to an eighth title, turning the corner onto Hualalai Road. However, she stopped again, almost unable to keep her balance, West Hawaii Today’s Paul Young wrote in a Oct. 8, 1995 article.

She was losing consciousness, she said, by the time she reached Kailua Town.

“I felt like I gave my life. I actually thought I was going to die, have a seizure. I could not go another 300 yards. I just could not,” she said.

Newby-Fraser began to walk as Smyers ran past her to finish in first place in nine hours, 16 minutes, and 46 seconds. Newby-Fraser sat on a curb along Alii Drive and was treated by medical staff and her fiance, Pauli Huddle.

Many in the crowd assumed she was done for the day, but 20 minutes later, in a heroic act, Newby-Fraser recouped and began a long march to the pier. She put her shoes back on, and this time, she made it to the finish line without stopping, falling into Huddle’s arms.

Newby-Fraser finished in fourth place, in 9:37:54.

Prior to the 1995 race, Newby-Fraser had announced she was retiring from competitive racing.

However, in 1996, Newby-Fraser announced a few days before the race she would compete again in the Ironman World Championship, and the results that year were much different, with her winning her eighth and final title (9:06:49).

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She pulled away from newcomer Natascha Badmann on the run back to town from NELHA, and finished ahead of Badmann (9:11:19) and the previous year’s winner Smyers (9:19:13).

“I was thrilled to win. I didn’t bring anything from last year with me. I wasn’t thinking about it,” Newby-Fraser said after the race. “My motto for today was ‘This is the moment. Don’t worry about what did happen or what should happen or what might happen. Just be in the moment.’ This whole day was very relaxed.”

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