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Kona: Age Group Athletes to Watch in 2016

We spoke with 2016 Ironman 70.3 35-39 World Champion Owain Matthews and 2015 Ironman 40-45 World Champion Ben Bell about their thoughts on the age groupers to watch at this year’s Ironman World Championship.

(Comment below the article with your tips for the age groups this weekend)

We have known Owain since he rocked up to the Balmoral Triathlon Club in Sydney when he first arrived in Sydney from the UK. Having never done triathlon but being a competitive runner Owain and his wife Danielle decided to join Balmoral to get to know people. He has since gone on to become a world champ, triathlon coach and is a key member at the Balmoral Triathlon Club. He has been mentored by Bruce Thomas at Balmoral who himself has a top 10 overall finish at Kona.

At the 70.3 World Champs this year Owain ran a 1:17 to take the win. He has competed at Kona twice and has run 3:08 and 3:10.

We have gotten to know the legend that is Ben Bell over the years at the local NSW triseries and also watching him race at many Ironman races around Australia. He was first age grouper across the line at Ironman Cairns in 2013. What we loved most about that race was snapping Ben with his wife and kids just after he crossed the line. He is known as one of the most dedicated trainers and while living in Wollongong we got to hear more about his stupid o’clock early morning training rides so he could get back in time to go to work. After winning the world championship for his age last year he is struggling to not be there this year.

As always Kona is unpredictable but in saying that we take a look at the age groupers with form.

Last year we saw German Malte Bruns just pip fast finishing Australian Levi Maxwell to be the first age grouper over the line. What’s more he ran with a hydration back pack and only started triathlons in 2014. This year others will be vying for the win.

Australian Levi Maxwell went very close to being the first age grouper across the line. He has decided to apply himself to racing pro. He is a classic over achiever in life and has some solid results last season.

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In 2015 Timothy Van Houtem from Belgium went 9:00:02 (ohhhh so close) but it looks like he won’t be attempting to go 8:59:59 in 2016.

There are a few other Australians that won’t be at Kona this year that we would love to see go around again.

We look forward to the day that John MacLean notches up a Kona as an able bodied athlete. There are so many remarkable Aussie age group results and we wouldn’t be able to cover them all.

Owain Matthew’s tips

Like with most years Hawaii throws up some unexpected challenges so the athletes that can execute their race plans and be consistent across 3 disciplines will be the most successful. I’ve seen (and been) many athletes come to Kona in great shape and not execute their race plan.


  • Tim Rea M25-29 – 2nd age group IM Canada, strong swim/bike combo.
  • Nathan Shearer M25-29 – won age group IMNZ, 5th Kona 2015.
  • Hayden Armstrong M35-39 – age group winner IMNZ 2016, 8th in Kona 2013.
  • Phoebe Fear F35-39 – 5th Kona 2015.
  • Steve Eccelston M44 – Steve Eccelston M40-44 – 70.3 WC age group winner.

Rest of the World

  • India Kraal F25-29 – age group winner IMNZ, 9.54.
  • Ryan Giuliano M30-34– age group winner 70.3 WC, 3rd Kona 2015.
  • Chino Nishimura F25-29, 6th Kona 2014, IM Cairns age group winner.
  • Nicole Walker F25-29 – age group winner IM Texas, multiple 70.3 wins.
  • Kristian Hogenhaug M25-29 – IM Frankfurt age group winner 8.42.
  • Björn Sören Laibacher M30-34 – IM Frankfurt age group winner 8.43.
  • Bevan McKinnon M45-49 – winner age group IMNZ, 70.3 WC winner.

Ben Bell’s tips

Ben Bell hasn’t been keeping too close an eye on this years AG’ers but mentioned the following athletes:

“I haven’t had a close look but the ones I know of and should go close to podium spots include”.

  • Nathan Shearer
  • Barry Olefson
  • Blake Kappler
  • Jarrod Medhurst
  • Hayden Armstrong
  • Steve Eccleston
  • Jody Gilchrist