When the best triathletes from around the globe descend on Lahti, Finland for this weekend's Ironman 70.3 World Championships, strong contingents from Australia and New Zealand will look to conquer the brutal northern course.
In the women's race on Saturday 26th August, trans-Tasman rivalry features as talented Aussie Ellie Salthouse takes on Kiwi veterans Hannah Berry and Amelia Watkinson. On Sunday 27th August in the men's race, a trio of Aussie men including red-hot Steve McKenna battle a host of international superstars. They'll be cheered on by lone Kiwi pro Jack Moody.
Home Hopes: Aussie Women Seek Maiden 70.3 Worlds Podium
Australia has never put a woman on the 70.3 worlds podium, but 30-year-old Brisbane athlete Ellie Salthouse hopes to change that in Finland. "I'm feeling quite relaxed going into the weekend, I've put in the hard work so I'm using this weekend as an opportunity to showcase that," said Salthouse.
With multiple 70.3 wins under her belt, she's morphed into a confident veteran despite illness hampering her last start in Singapore. Salthouse explained how racing the same elite fields regularly helps settle the nerves: "These types of events become ‘normal’, which helps to calm the nerves and excitement around high level racing."
If she can put together a complete performance, Salthouse believes a breakthrough podium is within reach: "This weekend I’m most excited to produce a performance that I’m proud of. I really think this is a course that suits me, and I know I’m in great form.”
Kiwi Veterans Ready for Podium Attack
Salthouse will have to contend with two decorated Kiwis in the form of Hannah Berry and Amelia Watkinson, who boast 11 Ironman 70.3 titles between them.
Berry is finally making her 70.3 worlds debut after injuries derailed previous attempts. Following a short yet targeted build after returning in June from an Ironman New Zealand setback, she's brimming with confidence.
“I don't have a specific placing goal for this one since it is my first world champs and also my first race back from injury," Berry conceded. "But I am feeling super confident with my form and am excited to see where I can end up.”
Meanwhile, Watkinson has her sights set high after an impressive seventh at the 2019 edition. "Top 10 at this level is an accomplishment. But I would definitely like to be further up the field and in the mix creating exciting racing," she asserted.
With a best-ever result, either Berry or Watkinson could deny Salthouse's hopes of a maiden Aussie podium. But if one of the trans-Tasman trio can break through, it would be a monumental moment for Australasian triathlon.
McKenna Leads Strong Aussie Men's Contingent
On the men's side, Australia brings a full hand led by in-form Ironman and 70.3 champion Steve McKenna. After only learning to swim and bike in 2015, McKenna is the unlikely star ready for his 70.3 worlds debut.
"I finally feel ready to take on the best confidently after eight years in the sport now, having only learnt to swim and bike in 2015," McKenna explained after years of dedication.
His unconventional preparation could pay dividends - bringing his family to live at altitude for a month in Switzerland and arriving early in Lahti. "Staying close to family was my priority after 2022 race travels and missing the girls too much,” he said.
Compatriot Mitch Kibby is another contender, having prepared with a training block in Andorra and early arrival at the 70.3 European Championships in Estonia. "I'm relaxed and internally motivated for a strong performance,” stated Kibby.
Meanwhile, Charlie Quin hopes his aggressive bike racing around Europe has him ready to mix it up in the pack during his first 70.3 Worlds appearance.
Kiwi Jack Moody Seeks Next Career Step in Finland
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand sends sole pro Jack Moody to face the might of the internationals. He snagged a confidence-building podium at Ironman 70.3 Swansea and is eager to test himself on the big stage.
“I’m very excited to get to Finland, it's a country I have always wanted to visit,” said Moody. “The bike course looks honest enough where I am hoping we can still see some separation with the rolling terrain.”
With hopes of qualifying for the 2024 edition in Taupo, Moody knows what a top result in Finland would do for his career prospects. “Come summer, the focus will be trying to qualify for world champs next year then a lot of next year will be about being as competitive as possible for a home world champs,” he outlined.
Historic Opportunity for Aussies and Kiwis
This weekend in Lahti presents a historic opportunity for Australia's Ellie Salthouse and Hannah Berry of New Zealand to become the first Aussie or Kiwi woman to reach the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships podium.
On the men's side, Steve McKenna leads an Australian trio hungry to make their mark in their first 70.3 Worlds, while Jack Moody flies the Kiwi flag alone against daunting odds.
No matter the outcome, Ironman 70.3 Worlds will showcase the present and future stars of elite triathlon from Australia and New Zealand on the most intimidating global stage. The trans-Tasman rivalry promises to heat up the action amid the chilly conditions up north in Finland.