Reigning Champion Hannah Berry Faces Tough International Competition at 2023 Ironman New Zealand

Reigning champion Hannah Berry prepares to defend her title against a strong international field, including Els Visser, at Ironman New Zealand.

Reigning Champion Hannah Berry Faces Tough International Competition at 2023 Ironman New Zealand
Hannah Berry is the reigning Ironman New Zealand champion. Photo: Graeme Murray

The 2023 Ironman New Zealand is gearing up for a thrilling women's professional race this Saturday. Reigning champion Hannah Berry is set to defend her title against an international field, including competitors from the Netherlands, United States, Canada, and Japan.

Berry, who has been focusing all her training efforts on defending her title, is feeling confident heading into the race. She has had a smooth lead-up to the event, without any interruptions, and is in the best shape she can be at the moment. Winning again at the Ironman New Zealand would mean a lot to her and would be a huge boost for the rest of the year ahead.

This year's event will only be Berry's third time racing over the full distance, having won the title at the event in 2021 and finishing fifth at Ironman Florida the same year. She is still quite new to the distance, but she feels confident that she has learned a lot from her first two full distance races and is in a good position to produce her best performance yet.

Els Visser (NLD) finished second at the 2022 Ironman Western Australia. Photo: Korupt Vision

The Dutch athlete Els Visser is considered a serious threat to Berry's title defence. Visser heads into Saturday's race full of confidence off the back of a second-place finish in December at the 2022 Ironman Western Australia in Busselton, which also qualified her for the 2023 Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Visser has also claimed a number of other notable results, including the 2018 Ironman Netherlands title and second at the 2022 Ironman Lanzarote.

Visser has already qualified for the 2023 Ironman World Championship, which takes some of the pressure off racing her debut Ironman New Zealand. She can now focus on giving her best without any pressure and maybe race a bit differently. New Zealand is a bucket list destination for Visser for two main reasons, the beauty of the natural environment and a life-changing experience she had with a Kiwi woman, Gaylene, nine years ago. In 2014, Visser and 25 other passengers were shipwrecked in Indonesia in the middle of the night. Instead of waiting to be rescued, she and Gaylene swam for eight hours to a nearby uninhabited island. This experience taught Visser the importance of seizing the moment and making the most of every opportunity.

Meredith Kessler (USA) is a five-time Ironman New Zealand champion. Photo: Delly Carr

Ironman New Zealand will have a real international feel to it, with half of the women competing for the title from overseas countries. Berry is excited to see some new names on the start list and hopes it will make for close and interesting race. Winning is, of course, a goal, but she believes success is more than that. If she can produce a good race and improve on her previous full distance performances, then that is a success regardless of the result.

2023 Ironman New Zealand - Women’s Professional Start List

21 – Hannah Berry (New Zealand)

22 – Rebecca Clarke (New Zealand)

23 – Els Visser (Netherlands)

24 – Meredith Kessler (United States of America)

25 – Jennifer Fletcher (Canada)

26 – Laura Armstrong (New Zealand)

27 - Ai Ueda (Japan)

28 – Laura Wood (New Zealand)