The race to be crowned the best skyrunner in the world was an epic fight from start to finish. Showing no fear as they hot-footed over technical ridges and flew down death-defying downhills, this year’s field of skyrunners earned their reputation as the “savages of the running world”.
7 Months, 649 kilometres covered and over 50,000 meters climbed
In 2019, 6,425 runners took their place behind a starting line of a Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series race. 363 would score points towards the overall ranking in a bid to be crowned the best skyrunner in the world. After an incredible season, which lasted 7 months, covered 649 kilometres and climbed over 50,000 meters, Sheila Avilés of Spain and Ruy Ueda of Japan were finally crowned the 2019 season champions, proving to be the fastest, fearless and most technically talented of them all.
The journey, that started in Japan, included 16 races in 11 countries around the world. For the first time, the circuit would end with the SkyMasters. Unlike any other race, the SkyMasters was not open to everyone and athletes would need to qualify for the final. This new format resulted in a competitive, unpredictable and exciting series that would identify new stars and determine the best skyrunners in the world.
Ueda and Cardona are Standout Performance of the Season
Along the way, there were a number of standout performances. The first race of 2019, Mt. Awa Skyrace in Japan, marked the start of a season-long battle between Japan’s Ruy Ueda and Oriol Cardona of Spain, with Ueda taking home the first win, just 9 seconds ahead of Cardona. After an intense and competitive game of leapfrog, which saw the two athletes constantly switching between first and second position in the overall ranking, it all came down a sprint finish between the two men at the SkyMasters. After 7 months, the entire season was won by just 12 seconds. Ueda walked away as the winner of the SkyMasters and 2019 season champion. In a truly fantastic show of sportsmanship, both contenders thanked and congratulated one another for a great season of racing.
British elite, Jonathan Albon, finished third overall after claiming his fourth win at the technical 57 km Tromsø Skyrace in Norway and fourth place went to the top downhill runner of the season and 2019 Olympus Marathon champion, Zaid Ait Malek of Spain.
Italian winter triathlete turned skyrunner, Daniel Antonioli was the men’s breakthrough act of the 2019 season. The unknown name burst onto the scene at the Italian SuperSky race, Livigno SkyMarathon, where he came second against a stacked-field. Antonioli continued to impress by going on to win the last SuperSky race of the season, the Matterhorn Ultraks « EXTREME », followed by his third podium position of the season at ZacUp Skyrace in Italy. He ended the season fifth overall.
Epic New Faces in the Female Field
The superb level of competition in the women’s field this year made it anything but easy to predict the overall champion. The start of the season saw favorites, Megan Kimmel of the USA and Dutch runner, Ragna Debats, dominate the leaderboard, however, as the season unfolded, new stars began to emerge. Elena Rukhlyada of Russia was the first “new girl” on the scene taking home the title at Skyrace des Matheysins in France, a new race to 2019, which saw runners fight their way through some of the toughest weather conditions the circuit has seen. Johanna Åström of Sweden was up next with an incredible performance at BUFF® Epic Trail. Åström’s second-place finish, just minutes behind the future 2019 season champion, Sheila Avilés, was the start of a successful season for the new name who went on to win two of the most technical races in the circuit, Tromsø Skyrace and the Matterhorn Ultraks « EXTREME ». After only three races, Åström had already entered the top 5 overall. Despite a hip injury preventing her from travelling and competing in the SkyMasters, she finished fourth in the season ranking.
The third epic addition to the women’s field this year was Romanian runner, Denisa Dragomir, who fought off the entire field of top female runners in Limone to take home the title at the world’s first SkyMasters. Dragomir placed 5th overall despite only doing three races of the circuit.
With three wins, two of which were SuperSky races, and a second-place finish at the SkyMasters, Sheila Avilés managed to come back strong after missing out on the podium at her first race in Japan. With 780 points overall, she was the highest scoring athlete of the entire circuit and therefore deservingly crowned the 2019 female season champion.
More to Come in 2020
The 2019 season successfully defined the key values of skyrunning: speed, technicality and intense competition. With new races and locations being added to the 2020 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series calendar, the official circuit is likely to draw in new talent to the circuit, therefore fans can expect another exciting year of skyrunning.