This year’s Challenge Wanaka to be held on 15 January features multiple iron distance champion Belinda Granger and two times ironman champion Courtney Odgen as well as current world age group champion Belinda Harper (NZL) and Challenge Barcelona winner Jimmy Johnsen (DEN). The field includes a number of high profile international professional athletes, including the event’s largest ever men’s pro field of 14 that includes previous Challenge Wanaka winners, Luke Dragstra (CAN) and Marc Pschebizin (GER)
Challenge Wanaka is part of the rapidly growing global series of Challenge iron distance races that features 12 events in Australia, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, Austria as well as New Zealand. The iron distance triathlon has grown into one of the most significant sporting events of the New Zealand summer,attracting a record field of over 1,200 athletes from 27 nations and acting as a draw card for several thousand spectators.
Granger won the inaugural Challenge Wanaka in 2007 and joins men’s 2007 champion, Luke Dragstra in returning to Wanaka for the fifth anniversary of the event. She has 11 other iron distance titles to her credit as well as numerous podium finishes around the world.
“We’re delighted to have both Belinda and Luke here looking to reclaim the titles they won five years ago,” said race director, Victoria Murray-Orr. “It’s also very exciting that Belinda Harper has chosen to make Challenge Wanaka her first race as a professional athlete following her record-breaking performance at Kona in October.”
Harper broke the women’s age group record in Hawaii with 9:44:19 winning the 35-39 age group and taking the world age group title.
All will have the Western Pacific Performance Bonus in their sights. The bonus has doubled from previous years and will now pay out NZ$10,000 to the first male athlete under 8:20 and thefirst female athlete under 9:15. The current course records are 8:34:41 and9:28:27 respectively.
One name missing from the start line is 2010 women’s champion, Gina Crawford, who this week announced she is pregnant with her first child, due in early July. Joanna Carritt from the UK is the top women’s contender following a third at Ironman UK.
“I am obviously upset that I will not be on the start line of my favourite event this year; an event I have looked forward to competing in all year,” said Ms Crawford. “However, my husband and I are overjoyed to be expecting a new addition to our family and I am greatly looking forward to this next chapter of my life. I hope to be back competing in Wanaka if not in 2012 then in 2013.”
Men’s 2010 champion, Richard Ussher, will not defend his title due to multisport commitments but will cycle in the ‘dream team’ Team Tri Stars which also features Youth Olympic triathlon goldmedallist, Aaron Barclay and New Zealand marathon champion, Shireen Crumpton.
Supporters around the world can follow athletes through the Sport Splits iPhone app or via real time text updates.
(Update... Australia’s Josh Rix is also racing at Challenge Wanaka. Josh is fit and has unfinished business after getting his nutrition wrong at Ironman Western Australia in December. Watch this space!)