Chrissie  Sunday Times 2009 Sportswoman

Current world record-holder and Ironman Triathlon champion takes the top honour at this year’s awards

Chrissie Wellington, the current world record-holder and Ironman Triathlon champion, was announced this afternoon as the Sportswoman of the Year for 2009 at the 22nd Sunday Times Sportswomen of the Year Awards ceremony held in association with Brittany Ferries at the David Beckham Academy in south-east London.

In front of an audience of more than 250 distinguished guests – which included Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe, rugby world cup-winner Lawrence Dallaglio and Sunday Times tennis columnist Pat Cash – the 32-year-old was honoured as the leading sportswoman of this year following a four-week Times Online public vote.

“It is huge great honour to stand up here and represent sportswomen,” Wellington said. “In terms of triathlon particularly, it is slowly getting the recognition it deserves. It is really being put on the map and so many more people are taking it up. Hopefully this award will mean the percentage of coverage in the mainstream media will increase.

“I was looking through the event brochure and at the names of the women, phenomenal athletes, who have won this – Tanni Grey-Thompson, Sally Gunnell, Ellen MacArthur. Many of them were childhood heroines of mine. To have my name among those is really quite surreal and a huge honour, something I did not expect to happen.

“Triathlon is still not a mainstream sport, it is a minority sport and though the number of participants are growing, it is still not out there on the back pages of the press. I did not expect the British public to vote for me. I am incredibly happy and it is great to represent my sport and to raise the profile of triathlon.”

It was a stunning triumph for Wellington, from Norfolk, who has dominated the world of triathlon over the past two years, and has incredibly remained unbeaten in her eight competitions at the longer distance.

The former government agency worker was crowned world champion in 2007 and 2008 but this year has been particularly special: she smashed the world record in July with a remarkable performance at the Quelle Challenge Roth in Germany, when she set a time of 8:31.59 to break the mark of Yvonne Van Vlerken by 13 minutes and 49 seconds.

Then, last month, in Hawaii, her amazing season saw further glory when she claimed a hat-trick of world titles in a time of 8:54.02, again in a course record.