Port Macquarie prepares to host Ironman Australia’sÂ 25th anniversary celebration
- Over 1,500 athletes to race Urban Hotel Group Ironman Australia on 28 March 2010, including Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott
- New Caledonia’s Patrick Vernay attempting to win fourth consecutive Ironman Australia title and sixth Ironman title on Australian soil
NSW’s Port Macquarie is preparing to host the 25th anniversary edition of Ironman Australia on Sunday 28 March. This year’s milestone event has drawn one of the biggest ever fields for an Ironman triathlon in Australia, with 1,522 athletes set to tackle the gruelling 3.8km swim, 180.2km bike and 42.2km run.
Sponsored by the Urban Hotel Group, the race has attracted a professional field of 18 men and 9 women. However, the highest profile participant is unlikely to threaten the professional ranks; the Hon Tony Abbott MHR, Leader of the Opposition, is one of the 443 first-time Ironman competitors. Like many of his fellow athletes, he is simply hoping to cross the finish line within the cut-off time of 17 hours.
New Caledonia’s Patrick Vernay, winner of the past three Ironman Australia titles, goes in to the race as a warm favourite. As usual, Vernay will be accompanied by his father Guy, an eight-time Ironman finisher himself. While Guy is likely to still be out on the course when his son crosses the finish line, Patrick is bringing some additional support this year in the form of his wife and young family.
He said, “Since my second place behind Macca (Chris McCormack) in 2006, Ironman Australia has signalled the beginning of my season. I really enjoy racing there and if I could win for the fourth time, especially for the 25th anniversary edition, it would be a great day for me and my family.
â€œI have won five Ironman titles in Australia since 2007, but this year will be the first time that my wife will be able to be on the finish line. So I really want to win, even if I know it’s harder and harder every year with the strong field we have to fight”.
Never one to underestimate his competition, Vernay is acutely aware that many would love to see a local athlete take out the 25th anniversary edition of Ironman Australia. He has seen the rise of some of Australia’s young Ironman stars in recent years, and he knows that he will need to race as fast as ever if he’s to make it four in a row against the likes of Tim Berkel (Port Macquarie) and Leon Griffin (Bendigo, Vic).
Berkel challenged Vernay in the early stages of the run in 2009, eventually finishing third and continuing his steady climb through the top ten at his home-town Ironman event. Still just 25 years of age, Berkel indicated that this may well be his year after delivering an ideal lead-up performance at Ironman 70.3 Geelong last month. He took third place behind Craig Alexander and Griffin.
However it’s Griffin who reigning Ironman World Champion Alexander believes Vernay should be wary of next weekend. Following his impressive performance in Geelong, and with Alexander’s encouragement, Griffin made a late decision to enter Ironman Australia. Never one to make up the numbers, Griffin will be satisfied with nothing less than a podium finish at just his second Ironman race start.
Apart from Vernay, the other athlete who could spoil the party for the Australian contingent is Scotland’s Scott Neyedli. Flying relatively under the radar, an ecstatic Neyedli snatched second place behind Vernay at Ironman Western Australia, held in Busselton just three months ago.
Neyedli won Ironman UK in 2007, setting a course and marathon record. He has spent the Australian summer training in Perth, and has prepared himself specifically for Urban Hotel Group Ironman Australia.
Despite the absence of 2008-09 winner and three-time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington, the women’s field once again looks to be a one-sided affair. 2007 champion Bek Keat is determined to regain the title in her home country Ironman, and she will start red hot favourite against a relatively small women’s field.
The first Australian Ironman event was held in Forster, NSW in 1985. Under the guidance of IMG, Ironman remained in Forster until 2004, when it was re-located two hours north to Port Macquarie. In 25 years, Ironman Australia has seen 12 individual male and 13 individual female champions. Australia’s Chris McCormack made the race his own from 2002 to 2006, winning five consecutive titles, while Canada’s Lisa Bentley matched McCormack’s winning streak over the same period.
- Of the 1,522 registered athletes, there are 1,412 Australian and 110 international competitors
- A total of 26 nations are represented; after Australia, the highest proportion are from the UK, US, Canada and New Caledonia
- 85% of the field are male (1,292 men and 230 women)
- The most popular age group category for both men and women is 35-39 (306 men and 54 women)
- The oldest competitors are Georg von Schrader (72 years) and Karla McKinlay (64 years)
- The youngest competitors are Rohan Lowe (18 years) and Grace MacPherson (20 years)
- Patrick Vernay
- Tim Berkel
- Scott Neyedli
- Matty White
- Jason Shortis
- Courtney Ogden
- Leon Griffin
- Paul Ambrose
- Josh Rix
- Chris Dmitrieff
- David Meade
- Christophe Hamard
- Adrian Cominotto
- Adam Holborow
- Jemani Francis
- Chris Waterhouse
- Richard Munro
- Olivier Marceau
- Bek Keat
- Desiree Ficker
- Diana Riesler
- Lisa Marangon
- Kirsten Molloy
- Belinda Harrison
- Amelia Pearson
- Carrie Lester
- Conny Dauben