Both of last year's Ironman New Zealand champions - Bevan Docherty and Meredith Kessler - will return to defend their titles in the 30th anniversary of the event in Taupo next month.
The pair head a strong field of 45 elite athletes from 12 countries who will compete in the professional field announced yesterday for the race on March 1.
They will join a record final entry of 1750 participants from 58 nations, the highest number in the history of the world's oldest international Ironman event. The professionals will chase an increased prize purse of $90,000 along with qualifying points for the Ironman World Championship.
Docherty, the double Olympic medallist in 2004 and 2008, will return to his home town of Taupo where he won on debut last year, setting a new course record in the process.
It was a dream start to his Ironman career following on from his third placing in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in 2012.
His victory in Taupo did not flow on to bigger and better things in his two major quests last year, at the 70.3 Worlds and his debut at the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. He failed to finish in both - illness proved costly at Las Vegas while his nutrition failed him and he ran out of fuel in Hawaii.
"It certainly wasn't the finish to the season I had planned," Docherty said.
"I was in terrific shape but this endurance stuff, particularly Ironman, is new to me. I said when I took it up that I was confident about swim, bike and run but there's a fourth discipline which is nutrition that is new to me.
"I'm learning all the time and I am pleased with my training. I am strong and things are tracking well for me."
He has another incentive with his father Ray also competing in the 30th anniversary event.
American Kessler is chasing her third straight victory in Taupo.
Nine-time iron distance winner Gina Crawford will lead the New Zealand charge.