CAIRNS, Australia (June 3, 2014) Two-time Olympians Courtney Atkinson and Brad Kahlefeldt took their long-time rivalry to the IRONMAN scene at Cairns last year.
Atkinson prevailed on the run to claim his maiden IRONMAN 70.3 victory in Cairns last year over Kahlefeldt and the pair are set to do battle again on 8 June.
After announcing his plans to race more IRONMAN 70.3 events last year, Atkinson notched up back to back wins at Cairns and Philippines.
In Cairns Atkinson held off fast finishing 2008 Commonwealth Games gold medalist Kahlefeldt who added his second to a win at IRONMAN 70.3 Busselton last year.
Atkinson is having his first start since his IRONMAN debut at the Asia Pacific Championship in Melbourne where he finished 17th and is keen to get back to his best in a race that he enjoyed last year.
â€œI am looking forward to being involved across the whole festival week as ambassador and share just how good Cairns is as a place,â€ Atkinson said.
Kahlefeldt comes into the race in Cairns this year on the back of some outstanding form with podiums at IRONMAN 70.3 races in Geelong, St Croix and Putrajaya where he won.
Kahlefeldt is also keen to be back in Cairns and is looking forward to the entire week.
â€œI really enjoyed the week up there last year so I will be racing the Coral Coast 5150 and then the 70.3. I placed second in both last year so looking to improve on both results if possible,â€ Kahlefeldt said.
Last year Atkinson came into IRONMAN 70.3 Cairns not really knowing what to expect, this year he knows exactly what he’s in for.
â€œTo be honest I liked being fresh and a little naive at the distance last year. It was a change and when things are new it always makes it more interesting and exciting,â€ he said.
â€œAfter racing a number of 70.3 races now it feels a little more like a race than an adventure, which is both good and bad. I know what to expect but I also know you have to be in very fit condition to get over the nearly four hours of racing. There is no hiding.â€
Atkinson and Kahlefeldt are just two of a growing number of former Olympic distance athletes making the switch to IRONMAN.
â€œI think the level of racing will continue to rise over the next few years especially after the Rio Olympics which is exciting for the sport,â€ Kahlefeldt said.
â€œThe IRONMAN races I think will get quicker without a doubt. It is great to see the popularity of 70.3 and IRONMAN in Australia and all over the world, it certainly has exploded and it’s an exciting time for the sport,â€ he said.
They won’t have things their own way in Cairns with a field stacked with talent including fellow Australians Tim Reed, second in Geelong to Craig Alexander, Clayton Fettell, Sam Appleton, Alex Reithmeier and Joey Lampe â€“ all IRONMAN 70.3 podium place getters in the last 12 months. Add to that Sunshine Coast’s Dave Dellow, coming back after his third placing at IRONMAN in Melbourne and with impeccable Cairns experience after winning the IRONMAN Cairns event in 2012.
In the women’s race last year’s winner Kiwi Samantha Warriner has withdrawn due to a niggle.
Caroline Steffen is returning to racing after her dominant performance to win IRONMAN Asia Pacific Championship in Melbourne.
It was the perfect start to her partnership with new coach Chris McCormack, the Australian who has won 12 Ironman titles, the most by any man.
â€œChris and I are going great. The training is hard but having him as my coach and mentor gives me this extra little boost I need to manage the load,â€ Steffen said.
â€œChris told me how much he likes to race in Cairns so we both agreed this Ironman 70.3 would be a great opportunity for me to see how the training is going and also to test my fitness lev.
â€œI’ve never had the chance to race in the north of Queensland so I am more than happy to tick this box. Also having Flight Centre as my personal sponsor and main sponsor of the event I’m proud to represent Flight Centre on race day.â€
Look for challenges from IRONMAN Australia runner-up Lisa Marangon, last year’s runner-up Kiyomi Niwata (Japan), talented age-groupers-turned-pro Michelle Duffield and Kym Jaenke and super-vet Belinda Granger, who has not been further back that fifth in the last 18 months in IRONMAN 70.3 races.
The Cairns Airport Adventure Festival, incorporating the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Cairns | Flight Centre Active Travel IRONMAN 70.3 Cairns, will be held from Sunday, June 1 â€“ Monday, June 9, 2014.
For event information visit www.ironmancairns.com