New Zealand’s top two female professional triathletes will go head-to-head for the Ironman 70.3 New Zealand title on Saturday alongside a contingent of challengers from overseas.
- Athletes Hannah Berry and Rebecca Clarke, will face competition from athletes from other countries
- Berry is the reigning Ironman New Zealand and Ironman 70.3 Taupō champion
- Clarke recently qualified for her first Ironman World Championship
- The two top-seeded Kiwis will go head-to-head for the Ironman 70.3 New Zealand title.
Hannah Berry (née Wells) and Rebecca Clarke highlight the women’s professional field racing in Taupō, but will face competition from Australians, a Swede, and fellow Kiwis.
Tauranga triathlete Berry heads into Ironman 70.3 New Zealand as the top seeded female having achieving podium finishes at the Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast and Ironman 70.3 Boulder in the United States.
“It has been nice to get a few results this year, however if I'm honest my fitness hasn’t been peaking for most of the year due to starting the year off with an injury. So, this year has really involved returning to fitness rather than peaking in fitness. The last few months have been going really well and I'm finally back to hitting great numbers in training and feeling race ready, so I'm really excited to see how I race this weekend,” said Berry.
Berry is the reigning Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast New Zealand and Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast 70.3 Taupō champion and says she’s excited to be back racing at home once again.
“I am mostly feeling incredibly grateful and excited to be back racing here at home, it feels like it has been a long time coming. I had a little bit of sickness last week, just a head cold which has passed, but other than that my training has been super consistent recently and fitness has been trending well over the last while, so I'm feeling in a good place to finish the year off with a great race.
“2022 hasn't been the smoothest or easiest year for me, and while I have had some success overseas in the later parts of the year, the year has felt like a lot of hard work and patience to get back to the fitness I am at now. If I was able to finish the year off with a win I would be incredibly happy,” said Berry.
Auckland’s Rebecca Clarke has had a year to remember, qualifying for her first Ironman World Championship after finishing second at Ironman Australia in May, subsequently racing the pinnacle event in Kona, Hawai’i and achieving a top 20 finish on debut.
“It's definitely been my best year of long course racing over half and full Ironman races, my fastest Ironman and 17th at the World Champs, I was very pleased with that. The experience of racing the best in the world helps lift your game and I'm excited to use what I have learnt for future races,” said Clarke.
After the exertion of racing an Ironman World Championship, Clarke took some time off to recover and reset and has since moved down to Wanaka to begin her summer training block.
“My last race in New Zealand was Tauranga Half in January so it's great to be finishing the year with a race at home and also after the cancelled Taupō races over the last year. I had a break post Kona, so it's been a short block of training into this race, but the body has bounced back well so look forward to testing where I'm at,” she said.
Last time an Ironman event was held in Taupō was in March 2021, where Clarke finished second to Berry at Ironman New Zealand. This weekend, the two top seeded Kiwis will go head-to-head for the Ironman 70.3 New Zealand title.
“There are always a few strategies you look at going into a race, but you also have to be reactive and make in-race decisions depending on how it plays out. With a field of around nine females it will likely be a solo day for most of us or some small packs forming.
“A successful race is having the best performance across all three disciplines, if that gets me the win great, but if I've done a performance I'm proud of then I would still deem it a success,” she said. “I've been on the podium but never won in Taupō so of course winning would be a great way to end the year.”
Hoping to challenge the Kiwis on home soil is Australia’s Kirralee Seidel. The Queenslander will line up for a race in New Zealand for the first time.
“I’m excited to race in New Zealand as it will be my first time racing over here however, I have always been a bit reluctant as I’m not great in colder races – so I’m praying for some warm weather on Saturday,” said Seidel.
“I’m looking forward to racing in a new country, and like I said it’s a course I have never done before which always makes it exciting.”
The 36-year-old has achieved four top 10 Ironman 70.3 placings in 2022 – her best finishes coming in Dubai and the Sunshine Coast, placing fifth – and knows what it takes to make the podium of an IRONMAN 70.3 race, having edged out Berry for second place at the 2021 IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast.
“Honestly, this year has been a bit of a mixed bag. I have dealt with some very big emotional hurdles so I’m proud that I’ve held my head high and got through the races,” she said. “I think we all have high expectations and goals and that’s what drives us to keep going, to keep improving and reaching our physical best. I would love to end the season with a podium finish.”
The sole European challenger at Ironman 70.3 New Zealand this weekend is Sweden’s Anna Bergsten, who recently made the step up from age group to professional triathlon racing. Bergsten is the 2021 age group World and European Champion and recently claimed a fifth place finish as a professional in last month’s Ironman 70.3 Melbourne.
The women’s field is rounded out by Australian Chloe Hartnett and New Zealand duo Laura Armstrong and Rebecca Kingsford.
A clash of experience headlines the Ironman 70.3 New Zealand men’s race this Saturday as a host of professional triathletes from Oceania battle for the crown.
- Ironman 70.3 New Zealand men's race will feature a mix of up-and-coming athletes and seasoned pros
- Aucklander Jack Moody is the top male seed after strong performances at Ironman Australia and Ironman 70.3 Oregon
- Australian Charlie Quin has also had a successful season, with wins at the Noosa Triathlon and Laguna Phuket Triathlon
- The men's field will also include perennial Ironman and Ironman 70.3 champion Mike Phillips
The men’s field features a mix of up-and-coming athletes hoping to secure their first Ironman 70.3 title, a perennial Ironman and Ironman 70.3 champion, and seasoned pros hoping to use their experience to take out the Ironman 70.3 New Zealand title.
Aucklander Jack Moody is a rising star of the sport, set to line up on the shores of Lake Taupō on Saturday morning as the top male seed after a strong 2022 season that saw him finish third at IRONMAN Australia in May and second at Ironman 70.3 Oregon in August.
It was also his first time committing to a lengthy training and racing block overseas, something he says he’s learnt a lot from.
“This year has been great. It started a little bit rocky but was over the moon to get on the podium at Ironman Australia and also collect my first podium in the United States. I managed to get overseas for my first prolonged period away as an athlete and learned an absolute bucket load. Having kickstarted my summer in October at Noosa Tri I am ready for some fast and furious domestic racing,” said Moody.
The last time the 29-year-old raced an Ironman 70.3 in Taupō was in 2019, where he finished fourth.
“I’m super excited to be back racing an Ironman 70.3 at home. I think the start list this year brings a really unique skillset that I haven't really raced in New Zealand before and I'm really looking forward to the challenge.
“Professional racing has gone ballistic in the last few years and I wouldn't be surprised to see times that we did back in 2019 to be absolutely obliterated. The dream goal is always to win and to take an Ironman 70.3 win on home soil is obviously incredibly special. As long as I execute all three disciplines I will be happy to see where I stack up,” said Moody.
The run leg is arguably Moody’s best discipline – he recently won the Queenstown Half Marathon – but knows he’ll need to put together a complete performance over the 1.9km swim, 90km bike, and 21.1km run to be in with a chance of taking home the Ironman 70.3 New Zealand crown.
“To be honest it’s not really a field I am used to racing so I am very excited for the challenge. Looking at the start list I can see some serious swim fire power. The Taupō bike course is not very forgiving so I am hoping for a fair race with plenty of separation on the bike where I wouldn't be surprised to see the likes of Mike Phillips start to make some moves through the field coming off the back of Tour of Southland. My training has been going great and coming off the back of a win in Queenstown Half I really want to showcase what I have been up to without having to leave it as a foot race,” he said.
Australian Charlie Quin has shot to prominence in recent months since moving up to middle and long distance racing. A breakout win at the Noosa Triathlon followed, recording a new course best on his way to the title in October.
He has further bolstered his resume with a second-place finish at last month’s Ironman 70.3 Melbourne and a win at the Laguna Phuket Triathlon in Thailand.
“My season has been up and down. I was racing ITU early in the year and was not able to get the results I wanted which was really disappointing. Since deciding to switch to long course and after winning Noosa Triathlon and coming second in Melbourne, I feel like I have been on a real high. It has been an interesting year but a very rewarding one in my triathlon career,” said Quin.
The 27-year-old from the Gold Coast will be racing in Taupō for the first time and has set himself high expectations for the race.
“I’m feeling really excited and also a little tired. It’s been long season but I’m really motivated and excited to race here in Taupō,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to the scenery and exploring the amazing landscapes that Taupō has to offer. I’m staying around for two or three days after the race so can’t wait to explore. I’ve heard the race course is quite stunning but I don’t think I will have too much time to enjoy it during the race.
“I know there are a lot of strong guys that will be out there racing. I think I will just race my own race and stick to my pacing strategy and race plan. I will try to worry about too much about what everyone else is doing until the final 5km of the run and hopefully at that stage I will be able to contest for the win.
“Honestly, I would be disappointed not to win on Saturday but will be happy if I race to my full potential and fully empty the tank at the finish line,” said Quin.
Christchurch’s Mike Phillips is no stranger to the podium in Taupō, having won the 2019 Ironman New Zealand title and finishing as runner-up in 2020 and 2021, and has twice claimed the Ironman 70.3 Taupō crown (2018 and 2017) as well as second in 2016.
“I’m excited to get back to Taupō this weekend, it feels like it has been a long time since we have raced there. Taupō was one of my first long distance races, one I've always included on my calendar, and one that’s brought me many successes,” said Phillips.
After a year away from the sport battling plantar fasciitis, Phillips made his return to racing in September at the Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast where he finished sixth.
“Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast went well for where I was in my training. I was a bit rusty on the technical side, but happy with the performance,” he said.
With the full distance Ironman New Zealand in March next year his big goal for the summer season, Phillips says he’ll use this weekend’s Ironman 70.3 race to test his form and fitness in competition mode.
“It has been a bit of a different build up, I had Tour of Southland a few weeks back which was great training being immersed in a 1,000km week on the bike. It is still quite early season for me, with the bigger goal of Ironman New Zealand in March. But Saturday will be a good test of current form.
“Its another chance to see where I am at, my training is progressing well now all the injuries are sorted. I haven’t raced a lot of the guys on the start list, so it will be good to see where I am at against the current crop as we head into a summer of New Zealand racing,” said Phillips.
Another athlete to watch out for is Matt Kerr who will be making his Ironman 70.3 professional debut in Taupō. The 31-year-old from Tairua is the 2021 Age Group Ironman World Champion and holds age group course best times at the Cairns Airport Ironman 70.3 Cairns and Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast.