Sydney’s two-time winner Craig Alexander and Brisbane’s defending champion Miranda Carfrae will be vying for their own slices of Hawaiian Ironman history when they headline another strong Australian contingent for the 33rd running of the world’s most famous triathlon on Saturday.
The 38-year-old Alexander, who conquered Kona in 2008 and 2009, has arrived in Hawaii in great form after his win in the Marine Corps Ironman World Championship 70.3 in Las Vegas last month.
And he knows that his third victory in the world’s most famous triathlon will cap another amazing year and make him only the fourth man to win Hawaii three or more times.
US triathlon legends Dave Scott and Mark Allen have both secured six crowns each, with Canada’s Peter Reid three, Alexander, fellow Australian Chris McCormack and Belgium’s Luc Van Lierde two each.
He will become the first Australian to win the title three times in a race first won by an Australian when Greg Welch skipped over the line in 1994 to beat 40-year-old Scott who had made the first of his stunning returns, chasing a record seventh title.
McCormack in 2007, Alexander in ’08 and ’09 and McCormack again in 2010 forged the dominant Australian era in the grueling 3.86km swim, 180.25km ride and 42.195km run.
Alexander, in his usual relaxed mood, says he is ready to tackle a race that has attracted oldest competitor, 81-year-old American Bob Scott, one of three octogenarians among the 1800-odd starters and 21-year-old Drew Scott (no relation to Bob) but son of six-time winner Dave, who is among the youngest.
If recent form is the key and form over the course is also an indicator then Alexander deserves his favouritism.
The Boulder, Colarado-based Australian said on the eve of the race: “My preparation for Kona has gone really well, I couldn’t be happier really and things are starting to fall into place.
“I think my performance in Vegas underlines this and I am really looking forward to the race in Kona before my focus will turn to recovery and the ITU World Long Distance Championships in Las Vegas in November
“Arriving in Hawaii three weeks before the race and settling in with the family has been just perfect and there have been plenty of guys around, including (fellow Australian) Luke McKenzie to train with.”
Alexander will be joined by two 30-year-olds, Gold Coaster McKenzie, who made his Kona debut in 2006 despite a stress fracture in his knee and Sydney’s Pete Jacobs, eighth in 2009 and ninth in 2010 who ran last year’s quickest marathon (2hrs 41mins).
Also lining up in the Australian contingent will be former Tasmanian journeyman Joe Gambles, South Australian fire fighting triathlete Matty White, Melbourne’s Luke Bell who will be lining up in his fifth Kona race (best finish fifth) and WA’s never-say-die Courtney Ogden lining up for his third Hawaiian World Championship race and looking to improve on his 25th placing last year.
Carfrae, the 30-year defending women’s champion, will be joined by 34-year-old WA Ironman Champion Kate Bevilaqua, a Kona regular in recent years who was 32nd last year.
And for Carfrae it will be the chilling arrival of three-time winner Chrissie Wellington, who had a nasty fall in Kona last Sunday that will set the stage for what will be a battle of the titans.
Wellington, who stamped her authority on the race in 2007, 2008 and 2009, was a last minute withdrawal from last year’s race, allowing Carfrae to dominate in the performance of her life, which included a stunning marathon time of 2hrs 53mins.
Joining Carfrae and Wellington will be 44-year-old six-time winner Natascha Badmann, from Switzerland, who first won the race in 1998 and followed with wins in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2005.