Celebrate IRONMAN’s 40th Anniversary at IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong
During an awards banquet for the Waikiki Swim Club, John Collins, a Naval Officer stationed in Hawai`i, and his fellow athletes began debating which athletes were the fittest: swimmers, bikers, or runners. Later, he and his wife Judy, who had both participated in the new sport of triathlon decided to combine three of the toughest existing endurance races on the island.
On February 18, 1978, 15 competitors went to Waikiki in Hawai`i to take on the first-ever IRONMAN, swimming, biking, and running 140.6 miles in a single day. It was thought to be impossible but four decades later, hundreds of thousands of athletes all over the world fulfil their dreams at IRONMAN finish lines. From that one race in 1978, the IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon series now has 154 races around the world.
IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong on 18 February 2018 is a direct descendant of the very first IRONMAN race in Hawai`i and 40 years to the day, the best professional, elite age groupers, regular athletes, team competitors and IRONKIDS from across the nation are heading to Geelong to mark IRONMAN’s birthday.
Leading the charge this year in Geelong is defending champion Sam Appleton, IRONMAN Asia Pacific Champion Josh Amberger, and IRONMAN Western Australia and IRONMAN 70.3 Asia Pacific champion Melissa Hauschildt who are all looking to kick start their season and build towards their assault on the IRONMAN World Championships on 13 October.
Appleton said this will be his fifth visit year to the Eastern Beach course and he is delighted to be competing on such a significant day as IRONMAN’s 40th Anniversary.
“It is amazing to think that the first IRONMAN race was held only 40 years ago. The sport has come so far in such a short time and it exciting to see where we are heading in the near future. I am proud to be part of the evolution of the sport, and also like to pay the respects to the people that came before me to help shape it into what we have today.”
Melissa Hauschildt echoed Appleton’s thoughts on the significance of the 18 February date to the global IRONMAN community.
“For IRONMAN to have gone from nothing to the global force it is today is testament to the appeal it has to so many people of different backgrounds around the world. The epic challenge it presents to people of all walks of life is what entices us all. IRONMAN has gone from strength to strength and will hopefully continue to grow for years to come.”
After a lengthy break over Christmas, Appleton has been in his Arizona training base putting in the hard work to set himself up for the year ahead.
“It is a long season and I need a mental and physical break to ensure my longevity. Geelong will be my first race of 2018, so it will be good to assess where I am at, and where I need to keep working on as the season progresses.”
“My coach Matt Dixon and I have been are laying down the foundations for a successful season. I always love to come and support Australian races and I am excited to get to Geelong and test my fitness. Last year I was fortunate enough to win after I had come close a few years ago in a sprint finish with Craig Alexander. Geelong is a great event run in a superb location and I think starting a season on such a positive note gives me a lot of confidence going forward into the rest of year. That is definitely something I am hoping to repeat, like last year,” Appleton said.
Josh Amberger is hoping for third time lucky at IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong and is looking forward to improving on his two second placings and racing on an outstanding course against one of best professional 70.3 fields in Australia.
“The course in Geelong quite tough, and by nature great for me to leverage my strengths. It’s an ocean swim that can sometimes be quite exposed, which plays into my hands as the leading swimmer in IRONMAN racing. Similarly, the bike is often exposed to the elements, and when the wind is blowing it’s an open course that can really close the door on the weaker athletes. The run is similarly tough with some pinching hills, but fun and quite scenic weaving in and out of the foreshore.”
“While early into the season, I’m showing some really good signs of building upon the cycling and running improvements I made in 2017. I’ve been working with my coach on some more biomechanical enhancements, and my engine has a great foundation to build upon from 2017 as well. I can normally perform well in a 70.3 off limited race-specific preparation, so I don’t imagine there will be any lack of confidence come race day.”
Melissa Hauschildt is no stranger to the IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong course having won the title in a record time in 2016 and after a successful end to a disrupted year, punctuated with surgery, she is hoping to keep her winning form going right through 2018.
“The timing of IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong and being in Australia means easy travel and that makes this race very appealing. I also have a few mates in Melbourne and Geelong that I love to catch up with, so this gives me a great excuse to get down there.”
“The run course in Geelong is really nice along the water and around the Botanic Gardens. There is always plenty of spectators which makes the race even more enjoyable. A two lap bike course is also cool cos you get to come back through the spectators at half way which gives you a lift.”
“My training is going well. I had a break after IRONMAN Western Australia and then started to build back up. I raced a month before Geelong in New Zealand at the Port of Tauranga Half and kicked off my season with a win. So I am hoping I will be in great shape come Geelong,” she said.
IRONMAN 70.3 Geelong is offering 30 qualifying slots to the 2018 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship at Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, so some of the biggest names in IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 are keen to make their mark in Geelong.
Text and image: Noel McMahon |IRONMAN Oceania