Ironman 70.3 Sydney Returns in Style
Triathletes have celebrated the return of the Qatar Airways IRONMAN 70.3 Western Sydney, with the race back on Sunday for the first time since 2019.
Athletes from all Australian states and territories, and from around the world, descended on the Sydney International Regatta Centre in Penrith for the return of the popular event.
The sold-out event saw athletes take on a 1.9km swim, 90km ride and 21.1km run, finishing on the famous IRONMAN 70.3 red carpet in front of a packed grandstand.
Thomas Kearns was the first athlete to cross the finish line on Sunday morning, showing impressive speed across the three disciplines.
“I had a really nice swim, we had a good pack there and I managed to come through transition pretty fast and came out onto my own and held the gap from then on and then on the run I was just trying not to get caught for the entire 21.1km,” said Kearns. “It was absolutely stunning out there, as good as it gets with the conditions, no wind, not too warm, enough aid stations so you can cool off all the time, it was a good day.”
Vanessa Murray claimed the overall women’s age-group title, crossing the line in 4:24:14, more than eight minutes clear of Claire Dedden and Jessica Mitchell.
“It was pretty good, the swim was really calm, a little foggy to start with but cleared up pretty quickly, it’s a nice swim out there with just the nice, easy, straight line,” said Murray. “The bike was really good, a little rough in patches, so you had to be on guard, but the conditions were great, light wind and the run was tough but I quite liked the three lap breakdown because there were quite a few people around. It didn’t get too hot today, it wasn’t really a factor for me but I had a few nutrition issues which were my biggest hurdle today.
“I probably would have liked to feel a little bit better, it’s probably not my best race in how I felt but I think you get a lot out of these days as well, you just have to push through, it’s good to know that I could do that mentally,” she said.
It’s been a busy year so far for Murray who won her age group at the 2021 IRONMAN World Championship in St. George, Utah, in May, though she’ll be racing closer to home for the remainder of 2022.
“I’ll do IRONMAN 70.3 Melbourne next and then IRONMAN New Zealand in December,” said Murray. “There wasn’t much taper into this one, it was sort of just a training race and then the recovery will be pretty minimal as well, straight back into the IRONMAN training.”
Sunday’s Qatar Airways IRONMAN 70.3 Western Sydney was the culmination of years of work for Paratriathlete Minda Dentler, with the American completing her goal of finishing six IRONMAN 70.3 races on six continents.
In 2013 Dentler became the first female wheelchair athlete to finish the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. Dentler, who now lives in Arizona, contracted polio as an infant in India, resulting in the paralysis of her legs. Throughout her years racing triathlon Dentler has inspired countless others, continuing that today racing in Western Sydney.
“Racing on six continents was a personal goal of mine, I have a family and we use these races as a race-cation, it’s been fun to see different cities and race on different continents,” said Dentler. “It took about four years because I’d only do one or two IRONMAN 70.3s a year, and I was signed up for this race in 2020 and with the travel restrictions this is the first time I’ve been able to travel to Australia.
“I think we’re equally inspiring to each other, I’ve been really enjoying doing triathlons in general because I’m able to compete side-by-side with able-bodied athletes and we’re all experiencing the same course, doing the same sports at the same time,” she said. “Everyone is so supportive and you can feel the camaraderie out there.”
One of those athletes inspired by Dentler is Australian Paratriathlete Emma Mickle, with the two finishing just minutes apart after 113km of racing on Sunday.
Mickle has had an incredible journey of her own, recovering from significant injuries when a tree fell on her when hiking in New Zealand in January 2020. Mickle’s injuries have left her with limited mobility but that didn’t stop her finishing her second IRONMAN 70.3 this weekend.
“It was pretty special racing alongside Minda, I did some reading on her last night and her journey is nothing short of inspirational,” said Mickle. “When things got a bit tough out there I thought if she can do it I can do it, it’s pretty impressive.
“It was a ripper of a day. The swim course was perfect, it was great to have the lake to ourselves and then being led out onto the bike course by the moto was definitely a highlight,” she said. “Everything was nice and smooth today, I’ve been back in training leading into this race, trying to get stronger, fitter and get the most out of the body, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”
As Mickle continues to recover from injury she’s continuing her triathlon training and racing.
“I’m finding aspects easier, on the swim and the ride I’m definitely getting a bit stronger and more comfortable, the run is still a struggle for me but slow and steady gets through it,” she said. “The support out there today was 10 out of 10, every time I went to walk on that run I always had someone there saying good job, it kept me going, not much walking got done.”
For more on the Qatar Airways IRONMAN 70.3 Western Sydney visit: https://www.ironman.com/im703-western-sydney
Event results can be accessed here: https://www.ironman.com/im703-western-sydney-results
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