KAILUA-KONA — Let the countdown begin.
In just four days, more than 2,500 athletes from around the world will be toeing the starting line in Kailua Bay to help celebrate the 40th year of the Ironman World Championship.
This year, the storied event — which features a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run — will host the largest international athlete field in race history, representing 82 countries, regions and territories, from six continents. Athletes range in age from 19 to 85.
The race is the Super Bowl of the Ironman circuit, with the participants earning their championship spot by finishing among the best at one of more than 40 qualifying Ironman events worldwide. There are a dozen local Big Island athletes slated to compete in the 140.6-mile race.
“This is a monumental year for Ironman as we celebrate four decades of racing at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii,” said Andrew Messick, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ironman. “We look forward not only to honoring the historic professional performances from years past, but also showcasing the ever-growing international triathlete talent that will be on full display.”
The race is expected to host a packed professional field as well, headlined by defending champions Patrick Lange and Daniela Ryf. The race offers a $650,000 total professional prize purse.
The women’s professional field will seek to dethrone Ryf, a three-time Ironman World Champion, who has continued to add to her impressive resume this year. In addition to earning her fourth Ironman 70.3 World Champion title this past September in South Africa, Ryf also came away with victories at the Mainova Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt and Enea Ironman 70.3 Gdynia in Poland.
Up for the challenge will be a host of strong contenders, including last year’s other podium finishers Lucy Charles and Sarah Crowley, as well as the highly anticipated return of three-time Ironman World Champion, Mirinda Carfrae.
Carfrae rejoins the ranks of the elite in Kona after spending a year away for the birth of her daughter. With wins this year at Ironman 70.3 Santa Rosa and Ironman 70.3 Augusta, combined with a strong second-place showing at the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship, Carfrae has been at full force on her comeback trail.
Other names to know in the women’s field are: Heather Jackson, Kaisa Sali, Susie Cheetham and Teresa Adam.
The men’s group is equally stacked with titleholders and contenders, including last year’s Ironman World Champion, Lange. Lange will seek his second win in Kona, where he holds a course-best time of 8:01:40 from his win in 2017, as well as the marathon run-course best time of 2:39:45, set in 2016 when he finished third.
Also competing for the title is Lionel Sanders, who led the race last year through Mile 23 of the marathon before giving way to Lange and ultimately earning second. Sebastian Kienle, the 2014 Ironman World Champion, placed fourth in the 2017 Ironman World Championship and will be looking for another title after just missing the podium last year.
Fans will also be keeping an eye on Tim Don, who was unable to race last year after a pre-race accident on Queen Kaahumanu Highway left him with a broken neck just days before the event. After a grueling road to recovery, Don has made a remarkable comeback, placing first at the Ironman 70.3 Costa Rica triathlon, only eight months after the accident. Americans Andy Potts and Ben Hoffman look to rejoin the Top 5 after both finished in the top 10 in 2018.