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Sunday 21 January 2018

Weather a factor in Ironman ‘worlds’

KAILUA-KONA: Weather could be a big factor for the more than 1,800 athletes registered for the Ironman Triathlon World Championship.

"It’s been windier and warmer than in years past," said Rutger Beke of Belgium, who finished fifth last year.

The stiff trade winds are forecast to lighten a bit yesterday, but could still be stronger at the northern tip of the Big Island, said Ray Tanabe, a forecaster with the National Weather Service’s Honolulu office. Winds there can be "more squirrely and variable," he said.

Because of the uncertainty of weather conditions, the tough course and a strong field of professional competitors, most of the pros were unwilling to make any predictions on the winner, even their own chances.

"It’s a long course and you never know what can happen," said defending champion and five-time winner Natascha Badmann of Switzerland. The Hawaii course is arguably the most difficult in the Ironman races that include a 4.8-kilometre (2.4-mile) ocean swim, a 180-kilometre (112-mile) bicycle ride, and a 42.2-kilometre (26.2-mile) marathon run.

"There are so many good guys here, you can’t predict (who will win)," said Faris Al-Sultan of Germany, who was third last year.

"It’s the biggest race in triathlon, so everyone is here to win," said Beke. The male and female winners each get US$110,000, part of total purse of US$580,000.

Defending champion Normann Stadler of Germany said the Hawaii Ironman is "so different from any other race," but said he loves the heat and wind.

Temperatures on the Kona Coast have been in the high 20s Celius (mid-80s Fahrenheit).

The course record of eight hours, four minutes and eight seconds was set by Luc Van Lierde of Belgium in 1996. Eight-time winner Paula Newby-Fraser, competing then for her native Zimbabwe, set the women’s record of 8:55:28 in 1992.


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