(BIVN) – The Ironman World Championship race has started in Kailua-Kona, as more than 2,400 of the world’s top athletes hit the water for the first leg of the grueling 2.4 mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike ride along the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway from Kailua-Kona to the turnaround in Hawi, and 26.2-mile run beginning and ending on Ali’i Drive.
This year’s edition of the IRONMAN World Championship hosts the largest international athlete field in race history with athletes hailing from 66 countries, regions and territories, organizers say. Athletes ranging in age from 18 to 84 have earned their championship opportunity by qualifying at one of more than 40 IRONMAN® events worldwide.
“As we approach four decades of racing at the IRONMAN World Championship in Hawai`i, the level of global competition is as strong as it has ever been,” said Andrew Messick, Chief Executive Officer for IRONMAN. “With a field of such fine professional athletes competing again this year, I am certain we will see another spectacular race.”
Defending champions, Germany’s Jan Frodeno and Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf, headline the elite field of professionals. Both are looking to win their third-straight IRONMAN World Championship title.
From an IRONMAN news release:
The women’s professional field will have their sights set on two-time IRONMAN World Champion and now three-time IRONMAN® 70.3® World Champion, Daniela Ryf (CHE). Also vying for the title is last year’s third-place finisher Heather Jackson (USA), who will be looking repeat as the top American finisher for a third straight year. Sarah Crowley (AUS), who broke through with a win at the 2017 IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship in Cairns in June, and again just a month later with a victory at the IRONMAN European Championship in Frankfurt, will also be looking to challenge for a podium spot. Kaisa Sali (FIN), who finished fifth in her IRONMAN World Championship debut last year, intends to use her blistering run speed to move up a few notches in her second go on the Island of Hawai`i.
Among other seasoned competitors headlining the female group are Michelle Vesterby (DNK), one of the most consistent performers at the IRONMAN World Championship and winner of the 2017 KMD IRONMAN Copenhagen; Susie Cheetham (GBR), who is coming off a strong win at the 2017 IRONMAN South American Championship, and exciting newcomer Lucy Charles (GBR), fresh off a dominating win at the 2017 IRONMAN Lanzarote and a runner-up finish at the IRONMAN European Championship in Frankfurt.
The men’s group is equally crowded with titleholders and contenders, including two-time reigning IRONMAN World Champion and one of the most dominant triathletes of all time, Jan Frodeno (DEU). The 2008 Olympic gold medalist will seek a third title at Kona to further cement his legacy. Frodeno’s fellow German rival, 2014 IRONMAN World Champion Sebastian Kienle (DEU), finished second last year with the eighth-fastest time in the history of this race (8:10:02) and will be attempting to reclaim a spot atop the podium. Both will also be keenly aware of the third German in the bunch, Patrick Lange, who burst onto the scene in not-so-subtle fashion by posting a 2:39:45 time in the marathon portion, breaking a 27-year-old IRONMAN World Championship run-course record to earn third place in his Kona debut.
Outside of the Germans who look to keep hold of the podium, fans around the world are sure to keep their eyes on veteran triathlete Tim Don (GBR) who shattered the IRONMAN world record with a flawless race at the 2017 IRONMAN South American Championship in Brazil, finishing in 7:40:23 in May. Adding pressure onto the field will be Lionel Sanders (CAN) who has been dominant in IRONMAN 70.3® competition, amassing 16 wins over the past four seasons, including an almost flawless record in 2017 with victories at IRONMAN 70.3 events in Pucon, Buenos Aires, Oceanside and Mont-Tremblant. Rising-star Josh Amberger (AUS) will make his debut in Kona after capturing the 2017 IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship in Cairns in May. Two-time IRONMAN African Champion and 2014 IRONMAN World Championship runner-up Ben Hoffman (USA) will look to improve upon his fourth-place finish from a year ago. Fellow Americans Tim O’Donnell and Andy Potts, who respectively earned third and fourth place finishes in the 2015 IRONMAN World Championship, will join Hoffman in competing to become the first IRONMAN World Champion from America since 2002 (Tim DeBoom).
Live race coverage of the 2017 IRONMAN World Championship can be viewed on www.ironman.com.