Two-time Ironman Triathlon World Champion Craig Alexander and Challenge champion Rebekah Keat will spearhead a five-strong Australian team named today for the ITU Long Distance Triathlon World Championships in the USA in November.
The 38-year-old Alexander (NSW) and Keat (QLD) will be joined by David Dellow (QLD), Nikki Butterfield (QLD) and Christine Hemphill (NSW) who will tackle the 4km swim, 120km bike and 30km run course in Henderson, Nevada (November 2-6).
Butterfield, the former Australian triathlete and cycling representative, is in winning form and chalked up a victory today in the Ironman 70.3 Syracuse in New York.
Australians have only ever won the event twice “in 1996 when legendary Greg Welch won the crown in Muncie, Indiana and 1998 when five-time World Cup winner Rina Hill won the women’s title in Sado Island in Japan.
Alexander came close in 2006 when he finished second to Denmark’s Torbjorn Sindballe when Canberra hosted the event for the first time in Australia, while Keat was second to British girl Jodie Swallow in Perth in 2009.
The Boulder, Colorado-based Alexander is certainly in outstanding form, continuing on his winning ways in Las Vegas last weekend when he won the 70.3 World title, recovering from a flat tyre to produce a brilliant half-marathon.
Alexander left the T2 (bike transition) three-and-a-half minutes behind American Chris Leito but after covering the 21.10km half-marathon distance in 1hr 11mins 50secs he went on to beat the American by over three minutes.
In typical Alexander fashion, he will be chasing his third World Ironman crown in Kona (October 8) before he lines up again in Nevada.
The 32-year-old Dellow, from Mooloolaba, finished second two weeks ago in the Gerardmer, France race (1.9 swim, 93 bike, 21 run) after his fourth in Embrunman Ironman and sixth in the Challenge Cairns event in June.
Albury’s 33-year-old Gold Coast-based Keat will start as one of the favourites in the women’s race after chalking up her fifth and sixth Ironman victories with impressive performances in Challenge Cairns and Challenge Copenhagen this year.
She will be joined by Sydney’s 41-year-old “late bloomer” Christine Hemphill and “Supermum” former triathlete, turned cyclist, turned triathlete Butterfield (nee Egyed).
Hemphill, a mother of two boys, has taken 12 months leave of absence from her job in Financial Services, to “get serious” about her triathlon career after her first long course triathlon in 2009.
She didn’t complete her first Olympic Distance until two years ago and her first Ironman distance in 2010 and has finished on the podium in her age category almost every time she has raced.
Butterfield, who has represented Australian Cycling and Triathlon over a decorated decade of elite competition is back representing Australia again, just 10 months after the birth of her first child Savana Rose who arrived just before Christmas 2010.
She showed she was very much back to her best when she pocketed $30,150 in prize money after a close-up fourth in the HyVee Triathlon in Des Moines, Iowa, a fortnight ago after calling on her professional cycling experience to move up the field from 24th to first during the bike stage.
She finished just 26 seconds behind the eventual winner Lisa Norden from Sweden, and just nine seconds off the podium before her dominant performance today to beat Caroline Steffen and Samantha Warriner in the Ironman Syracuse 70.3.
AUSTRALIAN TRIATHLON TEAM, for ITU Long Distance World Championships, Henderson, Nevada, USA, November 2-6, 2011:
MEN: C Alexander (NSW), D Dellow (QLD).
Women: R Keat (QLD), N Butterfield (QLD), C Hemphill (NSW).