Michael Flanagan previews the men’s field for next weekend’s race in Port Elizabeth.
The Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa has always managed to draw massive crowds who perennially flock to Hobie Beach to see the pro athletes. The sixth edition of the event will not only see the biggest amateur field, but also the largest pro field with 51 Pros, 34 of which are men. With the wealth of talent on display, it’s impossible to predict a winner.
This year spectators will get the opportunity to see Australian Ironman legend, Jason Shortis, display his skills at the Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa. This dynamic athlete is one of Australia’s most consistent and popular endurance athletes. â€œI am in the best shape I have been in for three years and I have always wanted to [compete in] South Africa,â€ says Shortis. He had a solid 2008, notching up wins in both Ironman Japan and Ironman Western Australia to go along with his impressive record that includes wins in Florida, Malaysia and previous wins at Ironman Japan and Ironman Western Australia. He will be in Nelson Mandela Bay this April to challenge for the coveted title of Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa winner. â€œI have never been to South Africa before so I am very excited about my trip. I am really looking forward to having a good hard go!â€ adds Shortis.
Swiss athlete Mathias Hecht will be heading to our shores this April to make an impression on the local terrain and crowd. The swift Swiss has had some notable results of late, finishing fifth at Ironman Germany and chalking up an impressive 13th place at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii in 2009. Hecht also finished ninth at the Ford Ironman World Championship in 2008. These results certainly prove his credentials as a world class triathlete, and the Nelson Mandela Bay spectators will have the opportunity to see this powerful athlete in action as he takes part in his first Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa.
South African favorite Raynard Tissink will be hoping to take the title for the second time after winning in 2005. Strong competition can be expected from two-time Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa winner, Belgian Gerrit Schellens. Schellens has fond memories of Ironman South Africa as he won his very first Ironman in South Africa in 2006 following it up by winning the race again in 2007, overtaking Tissink with mere kilometres to go on the run leg. Injuries kept him out of the 2008 and 2009 events so Schellens will aim for full fitness to win for an unprecedented third time.
2008 Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa winner, Britain’s Stephen Bayliss, will also be hoping to emulate his efforts of 2008. 2009 saw Bayliss get second place at Ironman UK and third at Ironman Austria. Emergent South African talent, James Cunnama will be hoping to make 2010 his watershed year by winning on home soil. Cunnama is fresh off impressive second place finishes at Ironman 70.3 Singapore and Ironman 70.3 South Africa earlier this year. 2009 saw Cunnama claim second at Ironman Austria and third at Embrunman. German triathlete, Andreas Venhorst, will be confident after a fifth place at Ironman Malaysia earlier this year and fifth at Ironman South Africa in 2009.
Live coverage of this year’s race, which takes place on Sunday, April 25th,Â is availableÂ on Ironman.com