Australia’s top professional IRONMAN athletes are in the last stages of preparation for their assault on the 2017 edition of the IRONMAN World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on 14th October.
While defending champions Jan Frodeno (DEU) and Daniela Ryf (CHE) are the obvious pre-race favourites, the 14 strong Aussie contingent (Josh Amberger, Sarah Crowley, Tim Reed, Melissa Hauschildt, Tim van Berkel, Annabel Luxford, Pete Jacobs, David Dellow, Carrie Lester, Cameron Wurf, Nicholas Kastelein, Michael Fox, Chris McDonald and Dimity-Lee Duke) are ready for whatever the Island of Hawai`i can throw at them and are primed for an upset.
Australia’s rising-stars are the Cameron Watt trained pair of Josh Amberger and Sarah Crowley, who both came to prominence with their wins at 2017 IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship in Cairns in May. Watt is comfortable that the pair have done everything possible to arrive in Kona in the best possible shape.
“After Cairns, we headed to Europe where Josh won the IRONMAN 70.3 Jönköping and Sarah won the IRONMAN European Championship in Frankfurt. We then headed across to our North American base ahead of the ITU Long Distance Champs in Canada that was confirmation that training was progressing well, with Sarah winning comfortably and Josh coming second to a raging Lionel Sanders.”
“We’ve had a hassle-free lead-in to Kona, Sarah’s training has been tracking well. We have continued to work hard after her already successful year and work on areas that will make her a real genuine force in Kona in the years to come. After giving Josh his first taste of IRONMAN this year he has been training well, he’s in a good place mentally and very keen to debut here in Kona. Josh can potentially add a different dynamic to the men’s race that we haven’t seen for a long time,” Watt said.
After a sensational year that also included capturing the titles at IRONMAN 70.3 Jönköping 2017 and IRONMAN 70.3 Calgary 2017 in July, Josh Amberger is one of the athletes to watch in 2017.
“Coming off Penticton ITU Long Distance Worlds I’ve been able to take my training to another level, and I’m confident I have the fitness required to be competitive at this level. As this is my rookie Kona year, I have some idea of where I’d like to finish, but it could go either way. I could be flying, or I could be dying. We’ll have to wait and see. It’s the World Championship and the level I’ve wanted to get to for a long time now. I’m here to race the best and the world.”
Sarah Crowley followed up her win in Cairns in June with a victory at the IRONMAN European Championship in Frankfurt a month later and like Amberger will also be looking to challenge for a podium spot. This year marks Crowley’s second time in Kona and she returns as a genuine threat, much better prepared and in top form.
“My lead-in training was hampered last year, so I am excited to return in good shape and good health. I raced well in Penticton off a good block of altitude training in Park City, Utah and head over to Kona having completed another solid block of training at home in Brisbane. I am very settled having spent the last five weeks in my home training environment. I will be thrilled just to execute the race plan set down by my coach Cam Watt. We have worked hard on all aspects of my training and racing. I am excited to compete and look to hold my own alongside the best girls in the world,” she said.
Tim van Berkel heads back to the IRONMAN World Championship like a man on a mission and 2017 has been all about focusing on one race.
“Everything is about Hawaii this year, and I am hoping to get back in the top ten in Kona as I did in 2014. That is the big goal. The last two years I have been really disappointed with my results, and I want a top ten, and I am putting all my eggs in that basket.”
Former IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion Melissa Hauschildt has spent the past few months in Boulder recovering from major surgery but ready to rights some wrongs of her chequered Kona history.
“Last year I had my best preparation and made it to the start line but then had to withdraw on the run after my leg shut down (later finding out I had a kinked iliac artery shutting off the blood supply to my left leg). This year after two major surgeries (both having complications) that turning into four surgeries, the kinked artery is fixed and I’m back to try again. I’ve had a couple of races in the lead-up and feel like I’m heading in the right direction. While I’m playing catch up a bit, but I’m still excited to be in Kona ready to give it my all. This year has been tough, and I’m not putting any expectations on myself. I want to walk away having done the best I can on the day and remain healthy, so I can keep building fitness and continue racing at the end of the year.”
After an illness in September put his preparation on hold the former IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion Tim Reed is back on track declaring he is determined to be stronger and more resilient in the final hour than in previous IRONMAN attempts and to be prepared to dig deeper than he has gone before mentally.
“I’ve been to Kona to race three times, once as an age grouper and two times as a pro. It might sound obvious, but I keep coming back because the IRONMAN World Championship doesn’t rotate and one of the major goals for my career is to do as well as I can possibly in this event.”
The 2014 IRONMAN World Champion Pete Jacobs is heading back for his tenth time on the Kona start line and his keen to be back racing after a tough year.
“My preparation has been great and solely focused on Kona with no other races in the lead-up, or for the entire year for that matter as I regained my health and fitness. I see Hawaii as the ultimate test of what I can achieve with my mind and body. It is the place where I find how to extend my limits, and the journey to get there is a learning experience like no other. I expect to place top 10, as I have done four times before. I am excited to head back and race Kona in good shape, but being healthy and doing my best on race day is all I hope for. What place that gets me is, hopefully, a bonus,” he said.
Current IRONMAN Australia champion David Dellow is looking to improve on his PB of a ninth place in 2012.
“If I can get to the start line fit and healthy, I’m expecting a great outcome this year. My preparation is going well. I travelled to Thailand to prepare for the heat in Kona and I was able to put in some good blocks of training before heading to the Island of Hawaii. This will be my fourth visit to Kona. With the race is just ten days away I’m questioning what keeps me coming back for more, but I will say, Kona is the ultimate challenge. It’s a beautiful island and a beast of a course. So it is the beauty and the beast.”
With a win at IRONMAN 70.3 European Championship Elsinore and second place at IRONMAN France, Annabel Luxford comes to Kona as an underdog to be watched, especially if she can unleash her lethal swim/run combination.
“My preparation for this Kona has probably been my best, and this will be my third time racing. In 2015 and 2016, I was balancing work in Melbourne and training for Kona. This year I’ve taken leave from my job and have spent time racing and training in Europe and the US. I’ve had more time to recover, made my sessions count more, and I’ve also have had considerably more exposure to heat over the last few months than in the previous years leading in. It’s a generic answer, but I’m simply aiming to execute the best race I can and see where that lands me. I’m not getting drawn into a goal around a race result that has so many variables out of my control,” she said.