Photos: Courtesy The Challenge Family

By Kent Gray/
The locale was fitting, the race prestigious, the pace record breaking and the emotion pure.

Kyle Smith’s victory at the Challenge Championship in Šamorín, Slovakia on Sunday had it all, a “full circle” moment as the Taupo 25-year-old later explained. More on that soon.

For now, the nuts and bolts. Smith’s time of 3:27:10 smashed the previous Šamorín course record, set by Frenchman Mathis Margirier last year, by a remarkable 4mins 19ses.

It sealed a second 2024 victory for the popular Kiwi to go with his runaway Challenge Wanaka win in mid-February. The triumphs, coupled with his courageous 5th at T100 Triathlon World Tour Singapore on April 14, should see Smith ascend into the top 30 once the PTO world rankings are recalculated overnight.

What is certain is another huge confidence shot that Smith will take into his second T100 World Triathlon Tour wildcard start in San Francisco on June 8.

“Woahhhh what just happened?” Smith wrote on social media a few hours later, complete with a pair of blown mind emoji’s for emphasis.

“It quite frankly still hasn’t sunk in. I knew I had to have the run of my life on a course like this but I didn’t think I had that in me today. Hard work, health and consistency pays off I guess.”

What made Smith’s win even more poignant was the location.

“I feel like a chapter of ill health has come to a close now, finally,” he said after comfortably, on paper at least, beating German Frederick Funk (3:29:24) and Dane Kristian Hogenhaug (3:29:56).

“It started two years ago at this race, I had a really bad day [5th in 3:46:56] and had a lot of questions to answer. And yeah, it’s taken two years to close that circle, to come full circle.”

With 18 men exiting the 1900 swim within 20 seconds of each other, this race was always going to come down to the 90km bike and 21.1km run.

Hogenhaug played the first hand on the bike before being hauled in by Funk who would eventually enjoy a 1min 28sec into T2. However, Smith had reeled in the German by the end of lap 1 of the run and made his decisive move on the second lap, eventually clocking a super impressive 1:09:42 split for the 21.1km.

“The race was incredible, we were absolutely hauling on the bike for the first 45km, we were going 50kph and I knew then it was going to be tough day and quite an attritious race and I just had to keep riding my race and stay patient,” Smith said.

“I’ve been putting so much work into my run these past six months and so it was really nice to come here and have the run of my life.

“It was an amazing day out there as it always is here in Šamorín. I’m stoked to take the win and as you saw, I was super emotional. This one feels good and I’m going to enjoy this for a while.

“Thanks to everyone who never stopped believing in me. Onwards and upwards.”

India Lee won the women’s race in 3:56:45. Laura Madsen (Denmark) and Anna Bergsten (SWE) rounded out the podium.

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