Catching up with Big Island’s Best

  • Local Ironman World Championship athletes.

Approximately 2,500 of the world’s top athletes will compete in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii on Saturday at the most iconic one-day sporting event in the world — the Ironman World Championships.

It is considered the “Super Bowl or Holy Grail” of all triathlons and arguably the most anticipated race of the season as competitors test their physical strength, mental fortitude and raw perseverance against a 140.6-mile course of dramatic contrasts and punishing elements known only to the Big Island.


Saturday’s action will begin at 6:25 a.m. amidst a spectacular sunrise and a booming cannon over beautiful Kailua Bay. Eleven wave-starts will separate the male and female professionals and age group fields as they embark on a valiant 2.4-mile swim in the pristine waters along Kona’s coastline.

Athletes will then transition onto their bikes for what has notoriously become known as a hellacious hot and windy 112-mile ride through ancient and barren lava fields along the famed Queen Kaahumanu Highway. Upon reaching the turnaround in Hawi and returning to Kona, competitors are then faced with a punishing and soul-drenching 26.2-mile run that finishes on Alii Drive surrounded by an energized gathering of international media and ecstatic fans.

Among this year’s 41st edition, 26 Big Island athletes have earned their spot on the starting line from either being selected through the Hawaii State Drawing or outright qualifying on their own at one of the many Ironman races held around the globe.

A week out from the “Big Dance,” I had the pleasure of catching up to these amazing Iron-athletes as they shared a motivational quote or mantra they plan to use on race day.

1. Monica Price, Bib No. 324

Age & Hometown: 47, Kailua-Kona

1st Kona IMWC

“You got this!”

2. Sara Bloom, Bib No. 424

Age & Hometown: 31, Kailua-Kona

1st Kona IMWC

“You didn’t come this far to only come this far. Just keep going.”

3. Tina Eakin, Bib No. 1347

Age & Hometown: 49, Kailua-Kona

6th Kona IMWC

“Being comfortable being uncomfortable.”

4. Julia Chang, Bib No. 401

Age & Hometown: 35, Waikoloa

1st Kona IMWC

“It hurts but keep going!”

5. Edward Ignacio, Bib No. 444

Age & Hometown: 50, Kailua-Kona

3rd Kona IMWC

“I race to honor fallen officers.”

6. Mele DeMille, Bib No. 1955

Age & Hometown: 37, Waikoloa

1st Kona IMWC

“If you believe you can achieve all things. You can set any goal no matter how impossible. I also put Oreos in the fridge so the faster I go, the faster I get Oreos.

7. Brenda Bettencourt, Bib No. 639

Age & Hometown: 60, Kailua-Kona

3rd Kona IMWC

“You don’t get on the podium by walking.”

8. Tim Wiley, Bib No. 171

Age & Hometown: 59, Kailua-Kona

3rd Kona IMWC

“Just keep going, have a good day, just enjoy it!”

9. William “Billy” Richards, Bib No. 298

Age & Hometown: 47, Waimea

4th Kona IMWC

“This year is the Wizard of Oz theme. I’m going to race with smarts, courage and heart.”

10. Keish Doi, Bib No. 887

Age & Hometown: 52, Kailua-Kona

14th Kona IMWC

“I don’t care what hurts tomorrow!”

11. Steffen Brocks, Bib No. 863

Age & Hometown: 51, Kailua-Kona

14th Kona IMWC

“I’m going to tell myself, pick it up buttercup!”

12. Michael Vrbanac, Bib No. 633

Age & Hometown: 61, Waikoloa

2nd Kona IMWC

“Pain is temporary, results are forever!”

13. David Wild, Bib No. 2166

Age & Hometown: 32, Kailua-Kona

2nd Kona IMWC

“I love you, I love everyone here, I love myself.”

14. Winona Chen, Bib No. 2331

Age & Hometown: 29, Kailua-Kona

2nd Kona IMWC

“Focus, stay positive and have a good day.”

15. Francisco “Cisco” Besa, Bib No. 411

Age & Hometown: 31, Kailua-Kona

1st Kona IMWC

“It’s going to be a big celebration. Just getting through the swim and climbing up the stairs will put a big smile on my face.”

16. Paul Gregg, Bib No. 2391

Age & Hometown: 23, Waimea

1st Kona IMWC

“Just smile and enjoy it. When the going gets tough, I will remind myself that the whole point was getting here and just have fun.”

17. Mary Stupi, Bib No. 176

Age & Hometown: 57, Kailua-Kona

3rd Kona IMWC

“Enjoy the day and have fun.”

18. Don Baldassari, Bib No. 583

Age & Hometown: 62, Kailua-Kona

4th Kona IMWC

“Go out and have fun!”

19. Andrew Loeb, Bib No. 485

Age & Hometown: 71, Kailua-Kona

10th Kona IMWC

“Steady, steady, steady.”

20. Gunnar Hillert, Bib No. 348

Age & Hometown: 41, Holualoa

1st Kona IMWC

“Just enjoy the day.”

Other Big Island Competitors:

Dave Dwan, 66, Kailua-Kona, Bib No. 516

Patrick Ganley, 55, Waimea, Bib No. 145

Jose Graca, 45, Kailua-Kona, Bib No. 1173

Patrick Heilman, 41, Hilo, Bib No. 346


Elizabeth McAdams, 54, Kailua-Kona, Bib No. 246

Paul Whitehouse, 71, Kailua-Kona, Bib No. 502

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