Champions Cameron Brown and Gina Crawford confirm they will defend their titles at the 26th Bonita Ironman New Zealand at Taupo in March.
Brown is back to chase his ninth Ironman New Zealand crown, a feat that has not been achieved by any triathlete in the same Ironman race.
Crawford, nee Ferguson, is back to full fitness and firing on all cylinders after a testing season to focus on Ironman New Zealand which is her main target for the year.
The 37-year-old Brown (Auckland) is keen to put last year’s problems behind him. A niggling calf injury wrecked his US campaign last year and it flared again earlier this summer, while an adverse reaction to a bee sting sapped his Ironman World Championship campaign.
Brown said that these issues definitely do not indicate that his best years are behind him.
â€œLast year I set a new race record in Taupo and I had my best marathon run in the event,â€ Brown said. â€œAll the data from my power monitor indicates that I am producing more power on the bike. I may be 37 but I am continuing to improve as an athlete and get faster. That’s exciting and a boost in my confidence. I am looking to get a good positive start to the season in Taupo. It’s a really important race for me to kick start my year and to perform well in front of my family, friends and sponsors.â€
Crawford (Christchurch) also faced trials and tribulations last year after her breakthrough victory at Ironman New Zealand. Instead of rolling on to bigger and better things, Crawford was stopped in her tracks after discovery that she has a genetic heart abnormality and her return was thwarted by a troublesome ankle injury.
In the last few months she has married and a fully fit and healthy Crawford claimed victory at Ironman Western Australia last month and beat former Ironman Australia champion Rebekah Keat at Wanaka recently.
â€œI am training really well again and I’m loving it. It’s the best I have felt and my training indicates I am doing better than ever.â€
She and husband Brett have moved into the city which has cut two hours of travel time out of her busy day. And she has started to run freely with the removal of an orthotic that she has used in her running shoes since the start of her Ironman career.
â€œI had an issue with my foot right at the start of doing endurance training. But I’ve figured out that it was not because of the foot itself, but rather because I was new to the rigours of long hours of training.
â€œIt took an adjustment after I took them out because the muscles in my feet have been dormant but it feels so much better. I understand my heart condition and it’s not dangerous and I am much better off being a fit and healthy athlete.â€
Crawford said the defence of her Ironman New Zealand title is her major goal and she is greatly looking forward to the challenge on Saturday, March 6.
The elite field for the race will be announced next week.
We’ll have complete coverage of Bonita Ironman New Zealand here on ironman.com, including video, text updates, pictures and live athlete tracking.