If there is a common route to ultra distance (Ironman) triathlon glory, Matthew Trautman hasn’t followed it.
Trautman began his competitive sporting career as canoe racer and white water kayaker, representing South Africa at the World Wild Water Kayak champs in HIS last year at school. After school he took up racing sailing yachts for a living. Trautman worked his way up from having never been on the sea to skippering one of the most successful IRC racing yachts in the world. The crewed sailing box ticked he embarked on a two-year campaign to become the first South African to complete the Mini Transat – a gruelling singlehanded Trans-Atlantic yacht race on 6,5m (21 foot) boats. He finished ninth out of 85 starters.
In 2012 he teamed up with his brother, adventure photographer Kelvin Trautman at to take on the Non Stop Dusi canoe marathon, kayaking’s toughest one-day ultra. Inspired by their third place and with a rekindled love for endurance sport, he started training towards Ironman South Africa.
Trautman won his age group at Ironman South Africa in 2012 and finished 20th overall.
In 2013 he finished second in his age group at the Kona World Championships in a time of 8:49:12 (30th overall). His goal, to be on the pro podium by 2018.
Looking at his results and improvements he’s well on track. 2014 was his first year as a pro and he won Ironman Wales, finished third at Ironman 70.3 Austria and fifth at Ironman South Africa. 2015 saw him win Ironman 70.3 South Africa and 70.3 Incheon as well as place third in Budapest and finish fourth at Ironman Africa Champs.
“I had a breakthrough run year,” he explains. “Clocking my best run times for the full and half Ironman distances with a 1hr09min 21km at Ironman 70.3 Budapest and 2hr44min at Ironman Brazil.”
However the year wasn’t without its setbacks – Trautman broke his collarbone in a bike crash three months before Ironman World Champs in Kona.
He returned to racing with force in 2016, winning the 70.3 East London title and setting course records at the Stafford 70.3 and Durban 70.3.
In January 2017 Trautman was hit by a car whilst out training for the defence of his 70.3 South Africa title. He suffered a compression fracture of his lumbar vertebra and had to have a multiple level spinal fusion as a result. Determined as ever he made a miraculous recovery and steadily built his fitness throughout the year and was back at the sharp end of local races by the end of the year.
Trautman rounded off his long recovery from that career-threatening injury in style by winning the 2018 Ironman 70.3 in South Africa. Even after his 2018 win at the event, he spent much of 2019 recovering from injury.
He came back strong in 2020, signalling his form and return to 100 percent fitness by winning the South African IRONMAN 70.3 title in East London for an unprecedented fourth time.