Written by: Liz Hichens
With the dust now settled from last month’s Ironman World Championship, many professionals have had the opportunity to look back at their seasons and reassess. For all that finished outside of the top-10, the reflection also includes the question of how and when they will re-qualify for Kona to take on the 2010 race. When the race date of Ironman Arizona changed in 2008 from April to November, it presented athletes the opportunity to close out their seasons by going for that coveted Kona slot and, hopefully, avoid the full Ironman distance race leading up to Kona in 2010.
Over the past few weeks, several of the sport’s top women have added their names to the Ironman Arizona starting lineup. Two of the top athletes have yet to win an Ironman and are looking to change that on Sunday. American Linsey Corbin finished just outside of the top-10 in Kona and will look for a strong performance on Sunday. Canadian Samantha McGlone will also be after her first Ironman win. Despite two top-five finishes at the Ironman World Championship, McGlone is still new to the Ironman distance. McGlone is also in a unique position because she is one of few not looking for a Kona slot on Sunday. McGlone’s fifth place finish in Kona earned her a slot for 2010, and she will be racing in Tempe to take advantage of her strong fitness after a shortened season thanks to a long injury recovery. The top returner is last year’s runner-up, Leanda Cave of Great Britain. Cave also had a tough go at Kona and will be looking to end out her season on a strong note. Other contenders vying for spots on the podium include Australian Kate Major, American Gina Kehr and Canadians Heather Wurtele, Tara Norton and Sara Gross.
The men’s race in Tempe will feature several athletes who have competed in an Ironman race within the last six weeks. Always a favorite for the podium, South Africa’s Rayard Tissink will be looking for a speedy recover after an eighth place finish two weeks ago at Ironman Florida. Australian Richie Cunningham is also a favorite who will be racing on tired legs. Cunningham comes to Arizona one week removed from an 11th place finish at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida. American T.J. Tollakson is always one to look out for in long distance races, but he may be tired as well after already competing at Ironman Coeur d’Alene and the Ironman World Championships this season. The Czech Republic’s Petr Vabrousek has also had a long season with several Ironman-distance starts and will be closing out the year in Tempe.
Don’t be surprised if a victory comes from an athlete with fresh legs. American Jordan Rapp avoided Kona and has been focusing on Ironman Arizona ever since his victory at Ironman Canada. Rapp will be wearing number one and will be fighting hard for the victory. American Lewis Elliot is an Arizona local who trains on the course year-round. If Elliot has a great day of racing, he could easily end up on the podium. Australian Paul Ambrose has been focusing on the half-ironman distance this year and will be racing his first Ironman of the year on Sunday.
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