One year after making his 70.3 triathlon debut, Maksym Kriat made a triumphant return to Augusta.
The Ukrainian won the 2010 ESi Ironman 70.3 Augusta on Sunday, crossing the finish line in 3:46:54 with his hands raised in celebration a year after he finished fifth.
"It feels good," Kriat said. "It means my willpower has become stronger."
It was the second victory this year for Kriat in the 70.3 Ironman, the first having come at Newfound Lake, N.H.
A total of 2,595 competitors started the race Sunday, with the first wave of triathletes hitting the water at 7:30 a.m. Rain fell for most of the morning before the sun broke through early in the afternoon, only to give way to more rain later in the afternoon.
The 1.2-mile swim began at Augusta Riverwalk Marina along the Savannah River and concluded at The Boathouse Community Center. From there, the racers had to take a short jog to enter the transition area and get their bikes.
The 56-mile cycling leg took competitors into South Carolina and returned them to the same transition area to begin the final leg, the 13.1-mile run.
The finish line was at the Augusta Common.
Family, friends and spectators stood and cheered on the competitors.
Next up for Kriat, 26, is the Rohto Ironman 70.3 Miami on Oct. 30, then the Foster Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3 in Clearwater, Fla., on Nov. 13. Because he trains there, Kriat said, the Clearwater race is special for him.
Australian Richie Cunningham finished in second place, 18 seconds behind Kriat. Cunningham, 37, lives and trains in Austin, Texas, and said he has been competing for 15 years.
Victor Zyemtsev, another Ukrainian, finished third, 42 seconds behind Kriat.
The top three finishers came in at least 45 seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Kriat said the top three separated themselves after the sixth mile, and he said he sprinted to the end.
Zyemtsev finished second at a 70.3 event in May and said he plans to go back to Ukraine in December.
He was especially pleased with his swim because he doesn't see himself as good in the water. The Ukrainian, who was in the second wave, said he almost caught up to the first group while in the water.
The top woman finisher, Jessica Meyers of Tulsa, Okla., wasn't going to compete until about a week ago.
Her plans changed when her bike chain broke in the K-Swiss Ironman 70.3 in Branson, Mo. Unable to finish, she wanted to compete in a similar event.
She made quick arrangements to compete in Augusta, although the late decision meant her family couldn't come to watch.
Meyers, the mother of 3-year-old twins, said she wished she could have brought her family.
"It's important parents feel that they accomplish something," she said.
Meyers, a former Army captain, said the toughest part of the race came between the seventh and 10th miles of the running portion. She described herself as "running scared" during that stretch.
When she hit the finish line, the tears and emotion poured out.
"I can't thank Augusta enough," Meyers said. "The crowd was amazing. I loved it."