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Sat 25th May 2019
© Dan Evans
Ambitions high among the pro field at Ironman China
Posted by: Press Releases
Posted on: Tuesday 9th March 2010

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All eyes are on the temperature as race week approaches and the North corner of Hainan Island settles into tropical triathlon fever in preparation for Ironman China next Sunday, 14th March. Though the climate is unseasonably chilly at a low 11 degrees today, the temperature is forecast to increase by almost 20 degrees by the weekend. Now in its third year, Ironman China is established as one of the toughest Ironman races on the events calendar, and has attracted many of the world's finest, and perhaps most ambitious, Ironman triathletes to Haikou.

In 2009, former Ford Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack took the title at Ironman 70.3 China, in a race he said was the hardest he's ever done. This year Macca returns to Haikou for his first Ironman distance race since his 4th place at Kona last October. Can he defeat the competition hungry to put a dent in his legendary status?

Amongst the hungry is German Lothar Leder, winner of more than 13 Ironman events, and the first person in the history of Ironman to record a sub-8 hour Ironman distance. In 2003, Leder beat McCormack in a sprint finish at Roth, Germany and there is confidence amongst the ranks that he can still put on a show. Three time Ironman champion Luke McKenzie is ready for a win at Ironman China, the Australian is looking for redemption following a disappointing race in Malaysia last month. McKenzie pulled out of the race with stomach problems.

Chris McDonald is hoping for a solid performance and “top 3 at the very least”. McDonald suffered two flats on the bike at Ironman China 2008, and though he is returning from injury, the past 12 months have been good to him with an Ironman and two half Ironman distance titles, and a new personal best of 8.17. Hungarian Joszef Major also returns to China for the second time. Beset by bike worries in 2009, as his bike was lost in transit, Joszef raced on a bike imported at the eleventh hour from the regional factory. The new bike was set up just minutes before the transition area closed and he still managed to take home some prize money as third pro athlete.

Somewhat under the radar is Mike Schifferle, who is racing pro for the first time at Ironman China. As a stealthy age grouper Schifferle came from nowhere on the bike in 2009 to take the second fastest bike time in 2009, and finish third overall. Another wildcard to watch out for is young Aussie Tim Beardall. Tim was the first age grouper to cross the line at Ironman China in 2008, as a 22 year old first time Ironman. He's since knocked 90 minutes off his debut time and has raced Kona twice. Beardall raves about Ironman China, though he says he's not yet ready to race as a pro: “I'm still doing the hard yards, building up, and I want to be an amateur who earns their pro license. I met Chris McCormack in Hawaii, and he joked about me dropping him one day. I think I should have a go at it, I'm really looking for a result this year in China.”

In the women's race, there is perhaps no one who wants to win Ironman China more than self titled 'Asian triathlon superstar', Jocelyn Wong. The Chinese-American is another Ironman China returnee, and is under some serious pressure from her grandpa and other family members in China. “This is my Kona,” says Jocelyn. “I want to win Ironman China.” Her new bike has been prophetically called 'White Tiger', after the Chinese Year of the Tiger which began last month.

Japan's much loved Maki Nishiuchi returns to Ironman China; in 2008 Maki was first out of the water but withdrew from the race following a bike crash. Ironman Wisconsin winner, Amy Marsh has recently moved to train in Asia, and her teammates at TeamTBB are expecting to see her on the podium. Multiple Ironman winners Nicole Leder of Germany (4x Ironman Champion) and American Heather Gollnick (5x Ironman Champion) are still keeping up the pace, and trophy collection, and will be looking to add to their mantelpieces in China.

Ironman 70.3 China will leap into action on the same day as the full race, and despite being billed as an age-grouper only race, the race continues to attract professional athletes. Ironman China 2008 queen, and multiple Ironman champion, Belinda Granger is stepping into the ring with Ironman 70.3 China 2009 champ Amanda Balding. Though they frequently train together and hang out in the same neighbourhood on the sunshine coast in Australia it's battle, come race day: 'Belinda is not pinching my crown', says Balding.

The men's race sets Hayato Kawahara, a familiar face at Ironman Japan, against Hong Kong based Frenchman Erich Felbabel, and Freddie Croneborg, a Shanghai based Swede. Both Felbabel and Croneborg are familiar with the course and conditions at Haikou having raced here in 2009 and 2008 respectively, and are racing pro for the first time at Ironman 70.3 China.

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