Cairns Airport Challenge Cairns Women’s Race Preview

Cairns is gearing up for the first Challenge event to take place on Australian soil, and the excitement is palpable. The women’s race is shaping up to be a great battle, with two of Australia’s most experienced iron distance athletes preparing to go head to head, and show some of Australia’s newest iron distance racers just who are the alpha females in town. Belinda Granger and Rebekah Keat headline the field, taking on Amelia Pearson and Kirsten Molloy, who recently finished second and third at Ironman Australia, as well as Christie Sym who will be challenging hard for her break through win plus Carrie Lester who won Ironman Australia 2010.

Belinda reports that her preparation for the race has been ideal. “I did get a little head cold after I finished doing back to back Half Ironman races a few weeks back. But I am now feeling great and am so eager to get out there on race day and give it my all,” said Granger.

“I am definitely aiming for the podium. I want to put together a solid race across all three disciplines. I had a little hiccup after completing the ‘back-to-back 1/2 IM’s’ (Port & Busselton)… I ended up with a bit of a head cold but was able to get rid of it in under a week which was great. I am definitely itching to race. I love to race so never like there to be too much time between. I have had no injuries all year.. in fact I couldn’t even tell you the last time I had an injury. It is all systems go here.”
Belinda’s old coach used to tell me I was built like a ‘German tank’. Not much of a compliment but it was. Granger never seems to break down.

After Cairns Belinda will head home for about three weeks and then we pack up and head for Europe for 8 weeks. “My next race will be one of my favourites – Challenge Roth in July. It will be my 8th time there now and I am so happy to be heading back there.”

Granger expects the girls who will be right up there will be ‘Beks, Carrie, Amelia and Christie’. “They are all strong biker riders so I know that they will be pushing it once we hit our bikes. But honestly you can never become complacent and think that you have the race worked out…as soon as you do you fall flat on your back. I will be concentrating on me and me only in this race. As long as I am racing as hard as I can I will be happy. I was really happy with the way I rode in Busselton and I will be looking to ride just as aggressively in Cairns.”

Keat is super excited about competing in Cairns partly because her mum and twin sister will be doing their first ever triathlon as part of a team in Challenge Half.

“I’ve been nagging Simone for 15 years and finally she has made the leap, my mum is also in the team so I’m really pumped about that. I’m a bit worried people will think Simmy is me as she’ll be in the Half,” said Keat. “I’m pretty happy with how training has gone considering I got knocked off my bike a while back, I’ll be out there giving it my all,” she added.

Unlike some of the other athletes Christie Sym has not had the ideal lead in to the race, but she is not letting this affect her confidence. When Trizone asked her how her training had been going she responded “I don’t know that you would call what I’ve been doing “training”! Since Busselton 70.3 I’ve been unwell, fighting a stomach virus which is still hanging around. I took a number of days off last week to try and shake it, and have just been doing light “recovery” sessions to keep myself moving.”

Christie is a talented athlete with a good few top 5 finishes under her belt, but injury and illness do seemed to have plagued her last season. Christie explained “After my third episode of bronchitis this year I had some (more) tests run last week and was diagnosed with asthma. I honestly can’t believe how defective I am! I mean I had a heart condition diagnosed in 2008, coeliac disease in 2009, and now asthma. I keep saying ‘there can’t possibly be anything else!’ I also recently discovered that I have been ‘poisoning’ myself with gluten in products I believed to be gluten free – the problem with this is having coeliac disease this produces an auto immune response, and thus depresses my immune system. My doctor believes this is why I haven’t been able to fight off the virus as quickly as I should.”

Christie hopes her issues are now behind her and going into Cairns she has a completely new nutrition plan. After Cairns she leaves for the USA to base herself in Boulder Colorado, along with a swag of other Aussies.  There she will begin a 3 month preparation for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Las Vegas, starting with Ironman 70.3 Muncie (Indiana), Racine 70.3 (Wisconsin) and finally Boulder 70.3. Good results at these races should secure her a spot in Las Vegas.

Visit the Challenge Cairns race website for further details.

Rebekah Keat


Belinda Granger


Amelia Pearson


Kirsten Molloy


Carrie Lester


Christie Sym


Jodie Scott


Suzanne Alway


Lisa Ribes


Michelle Mitchell


Simone Maier


Candice Hammond



Karl Hayes

Karl is a keen age group triathlete who races more than he trains. Good life balance! Karl works in the media industry in Australia and is passionate about the sport of triathlon.