Triathlete takes city in her stride

Top sportswomen line up for Sunday's inaugural Ironman 70.3 and tilt at Asia Pacific Championship

Swiss triathalon star Caroline Steffen is Ironman's Warrior Princess. Photo / APN
Swiss triathalon star Caroline Steffen is Ironman's Warrior Princess. Photo / APN

We might know the Warrior Princess as Xena, played by New Zealander Lucy Lawless and filmed in Auckland.

In the world of Ironman, the Warrior Princess is teak-tough Swiss triathlon star Caroline Steffen, who tops the bill for the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Auckland event on Sunday.
Steffen has collected two world long-distance titles, two runner-up spots in the Ironman World Championships and Asia Pacific Ironman 70.3 and Ironman championships. She has also reeled in two Ironman Europe titles as well.

Coach Brett Sutton called her Xena because of her uncompromising approach and never-say-die attitude.

Steffen, a former Swiss national swimmer and professional cyclist, burst onto the triathlon scene when she won the ITU World Long Distance title in 2010 and finished runner-up at the Ironman World Championships in the same year, along with three Ironman 70.3 victories.

"The Auckland race is more than just a build-up for the big Ironman races next year.

It is the Asia Pacific Championship for Ironman 70.3 so that is important and it also carries important qualifying points as well," Steffen said. "I have won this title before and would like to win it again.

"It is enjoyable to race on a course where no one can [train] on it [the Auckland Harbour Bridge] ... That makes it exciting."

Her main rivals include Australians Melissa Hauschildt and Emma Luxford, Australian-based Brit Liz Blatchford and American Meredith Kessler.

Hauschildt (nee Rollinson), a former world-class steeplechaser, turned to triathlon with spectacular success, winning the 2011 Ironman 70.3 World Championship in her first full year in the sport. Her 2012 season was affected by injury, although she still enjoyed wins at the 70.3 distance in the US and Australia, winning the national title, before wrapping up the year with a win at Phuket.

"Auckland is a big one for me because it is the Asia Pacific Championships," Hauschildt said.
"I won the Asia Pacific Champs last year and I would like to defend it. I expect it will be a really tough field in New Zealand like it was in Phuket last year.
"I had an ankle injury for most of the year. It has been disappointing not to have been able to run more but I managed to spend more time on improving my bike and swim."
Blatchford has already won over the distance in Boulder and Mexico along with podiums in five countries including runner-up to Hauschildt at the Australian championships. She has consistently been among the leading triathletes for several years but was controversially not selected for either the Beijing or London Olympics.

Luxford, 29, was a former under-23 world champion and enjoyed four wins in the ITU World Cup and 16 podiums. She won the ITU World Cup title in 2005 and represented Australia at Beijing and London Olympics.

Kessler, who enjoyed significant success over both Ironman and Ironman 70.3 in the past three years, had a superb 2012 season with victory in Ironman New Zealand, along with Ironman 70.3 wins at Eagleman and Vineman and Ironman victories at St George and Coeur d'Alene.

New Zealand hopes lie with Auckland's Anna Cleaver, a former top-line swimmer, and Papakura accountant Hilary Wicks in her first professional start, after finishing top age grouper and 17th overall in the 2012 Ironman World Championships.

The field
• 1200 people from 35 countries have entered the race.
• There are 450 participants from overseas. This includes 212 from Australia but also Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Caledonia, Philippines, South Africa, Switzerland and Britain.
• Included in the field is the chief executive of Ironman, Andrew Messick, who has flown from Florida to participate and also taking part is the CEO of Ironman Asia Pacific, Geoff Meyer.
• The oldest is Auckland identity Garth Barfoot and Hamiltonian Bob Goddard, both 76.
• The oldest woman is multi-world championship medallist at both Olympic and Ironman distance, Tiare Lund (Kumeu), who is 67. The youngest are 18-year-olds Sho Hashimoto from Japan and Scott MacDonald from Auckland.
• The three stars of Australian TV show Bondi Rescue, Andrew Reid (Reidy), Quinn Darragh (Quinno) and Ryan Clark (Whippet) are crossing the Tasman for the Auckland race.
• Manfred Schmid and son Richard from Auckland, who have 18 Ironman finishes to their credit between them, are competing.
• Blind athlete Gillian Walker is on the start line. She has completed 17 ironman races.
• The course is a 1.9km swim from the Maritime Museum to the Karanga Steps in the Viaduct Harbour, a 90km bike with the north loop over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, and a 21.1km run. The transition and finish is beside the Viaduct Events Centre.

- NZ Herald

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