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In a pre-race press conference more interesting than most, the emotional high point came as Canadian Lionel Sanders waxed poetic about what he’s learned over his Ironman career so far.
“I’ve walked maybe eight Ironmans on the back half of the run. You do that that many times and you start to understand your limitations,” he said, talking about his spirit of “no limits” and pushing himself as much as he can. “People always make fun of ‘no limits’ when I’m walking. Obviously, there are physical limits,” he said; the slogan is more about an emotional and mental state of not putting limits on what is possible. But, he also said, he’s had to learn how to achieve those dreams after making the same mistakes over and over. “I have to have it hammered in I guess.”
“It’s just my personality. I’ve got to make a ton of mistakes,” he said.
Two-time 70.3 world champion Gustav Iden even said at Ironman Florida, where he and Sanders battled it out on the run, “Lionel [Sanders] was running way too fast, I was looking down at my watch and I told him to slow down, but he didn’t. And I was hoping I was the one who would blow up, so I wouldn’t have to push all the way to the finish line.” Ironman, everyone agreed, is a balance between pushing too hard and just hard enough—especially on a tough course like St. George.
Double Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee said he’s learned from mistakes in his three Ironman races too. “I don’t think there’s anything left to be said about walking an Ironman marathon after Lionel [Sander]’s musings on the subject. In fact, I walked one with him while people yelled ‘no limits,’ so that at least made it more entertaining,” he said.
For both the men’s and women’s races on Saturday, it’s coming down to a battle of experienced vets v. newcomers bursting onto the scene.
On the women’s side, four-time Ironman world champion (and five-time 70.3 world champion) Daniela Ryf acknowledged it’s been a long time since she last won that title back in 2018, after “I screwed up in 2019,” she said. Last year wasn’t her consistent best either, she said, but she has her health back and her training—and it’s these big events that motivate her.
Both her and defending Ironman world champion Anne Haug will hope to hold off newcomers like Kat Matthews and Ruth Astle—who won the age group overall the last time the race was held in 2019.
“It’s a bit weird to be here now as the defending age-group champion,” Astle acknowledged.
For the men, it’s instead Sam Long who went from cheering on Cam Wurf in the last Ironman world championship race, he said, to now competing against him. And it’s former world champ Sebi Kienle who will be racing his last world championship year. (He’s previously said he’ll retire at the end of next season, but this will be his last year racing at a world championship level; next year will just be for fun.)
Watching the “young guys bring the game,” he said has motivated him this winter. He was sitting in the bathroom feeling unmotivated about a hilly treadmill run, when he saw Iden post about running 27km uphill. “I guess it was true?” Kienle said, so he got up and did his workout.
Iden and the other Olympic gold medalist in the field, Kristian Blummenfelt, will also be making their Ironman world championship debuts after impressive debut Ironmans back in the fall. Who has the leg up out of the Norwegians?
“This time I think Kristian [Blummenfelt] is actually the favorite,” said Iden. He has estimated everyone’s likelihood of winning, he said, and he gives Blu a 30% chance of winning. “But I won’t say anything more about the other percentages.”
Blummenfelt said his strategy is to try and keep a gap on Iden out of T1 and enter T2 at least close together, otherwise it’ll be hard to run down his countryman. What’s Iden’s strategy?
“My strategy is still undisclosed. I will tell my coach, but my coach is also Kristian’s coach and my brother is the coach of Lionel, so I don’t really have anyone to talk to,” he joked. “That’s why I invited my mother to come here.”
Watch the full press conference below. And if you can’t get enough of the Ironman World Championship, be sure to check out our complete coverage.
2021 Intermountain Healthcare IRONMAN World Championship Pre-Race Press Conference
Posted by IRONMAN now on Thursday, May 5, 2022