2013 Ironman World Championship Women’s Pro Preview

Try to pick out who will be on the women’s podium at the 2013 Ironman World Championship, and you’ll be left scratching your head.

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Try to pick out who will be on the women’s podium at the 2013 Ironman World Championship, and you’ll be left scratching your head. This has proven to be a tough year for a good majority of the women’s professional field, making this a wide-open race.

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To start with, defending champion Leanda Cave (GBR) has been open about a hamstring injury that has plagued her all season. She got a cortisone shot after the 70.3 world championship race in early September and says she’s had some quality training since then, but will it be enough to repeat her 2012 performance?

Outside of Cave, all of the 2013 Ironman championship winners have had brutal luck in the final months of the season, leaving two off the start list altogether and the third barely on it. Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship winner Corrine Abraham sparked early chatter about her potential in Kona with a dominant win at March’s Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship. She’s at home due to an undisclosed injury. Ironman European Championship winner Camilla Pedersen nearly lost her life in a bike accident in early September and was left in a coma for 19 days. She’s currently on the road to recovery in Denmark and has started walking on her own. Finally, Ironman North America Championship winner Mary Beth Ellis (USA), who finished fifth in Kona last year, also suffered a bike crash in early September and although it initially looked like she would be unable to race due to a broken collarbone and the resulting surgery, Ellis has decided to give the Kona start a try. She won’t be 100 percent, but she’s confident her fitness from before her crash will carry her through the race.

The second-, third- and fourth-place finishers from 2012 are more solid, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if any of them took the Ironman World Championship title on Saturday. Switzerland’s Caroline Steffen has finished second twice in Kona and, like Germany’s Andreas Raelert on the men’s side, will be hungry to finally earn that top spot. She has what it takes to be in contention on the swim and bike, but it’s been the run that has cost her the title the past few years. Perhaps the biggest question mark is 2010 Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae. She’s the only true contender on this list who knows what it’s like to win. Although she’s had a frustrating year of racing, she returned to coach Siri Lindley, who helped her earn that first world title, and seems to be coming into form at the right time. She’s confident coming into this race, and as the Hawaii Ironman marathon record holder, she’s capable of running down anyone who gets off of the bike ahead of her. The most overlooked contender this year is 2012 fourth-place finisher Sonja Tajsich of Germany. Last year she was 24th out of the water, 10th off of the bike and ran her way to fourth. If she can improve on the swim (last year her time was 1:10:36) and duplicate the bike and run, she’s capable of winning.

Three women who had somewhat disappointing performances in 2012 but are high on the list of contenders for 2013 are Meredith Kessler (USA), Heather Wurtele (CAN) and Rachel Joyce (GBR). Kessler has had a rollercoaster year, which included a severe concussion following a bike crash at 70.3 Eagleman in June, but has shown the ability to swim, bike and run as well as anyone else on the start list. She’s also taken a new-to-her strategy into Kona this year and hasn’t raced the Ironman distance since the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship in March. Wurtele has worked hard on her run over the past few years, and it has shown throughout her 2013 season. She’s capable of biking with the best and now she appears to have the ability to run the marathon she needs to finish on the podium or higher. Joyce was high on the list of contenders last year, but spent a good chunk of race week in bed with a serious illness. Even after that tough luck, she managed an 11th-place finish. She’s working with six-time Ironman world champion Dave Scott this year and looks to show what she’s truly capable of on the Kona course.

One woman who stands in a category of her own is six-time Ironman world champion Natascha Badmann (SUI). It’s been eight years since the 46-year-old “Swiss Miss” won her last world title, but she’s shown over and over again that she’s still capable of keeping pace with the younger pro field. Look for her experience and impressive stamina to give her another top-10 finish.

Two Kona rookies to watch for are Great Britain’s Liz Blatchford and Jodie Swallow. Blatchford switched her focus to long course last year after missing out on Great Britain’s Olympic team and won her Ironman debut at Ironman Cairns in June. Swallow, the 2009 ITU long distance world champion and 2010 Ironman 70.3 world champion, has struggled with injuries over the past couple of years but has the talent across swim, bike and run to do well in this race.

Other Kona veterans to watch for on Saturday include Gina Crawford (NZL), Erika Csomor (HUN), Linsey Corbin (USA), Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED), Caitlin Snow (USA), Amanda Stevens (USA), Amy Marsh (USA) and Rebekah Keat (AUS).

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See the complete women’s start list below:

Leanda Cave (GBR)
Mary Beth Ellis (USA)
Caroline Steffen (SUI)
Gina Crawford (NZL)
Jodie Swallow (GBR)
Erika Csomor (HUN)
Rebekah Keat (AUS)
Meredith Kessler (USA)
Heather Wurtele (CAN)
Sonja Tajsich (GER)
Mirinda Carfrae (AUS)
Liz Blatchford (GBR)
Natascha Badmann (SUI)
Linsey Corbin (USA)
Amanda Stevens (USA)
Britta Martin (NZL)
Yvonne Van Vlerken (NED)
Michelle Vesterby (DEN)
Sofie Goos (BEL)
Jennie Hansen (USA)
Mirjam Weerd (DEN)
Anja Beranek (GER)
Caitlin Snow (USA)
Jessie Donavan (USA)
Kristin Moeller (GER)
Eva Nystrom (SWE)
Elizabeth Lyles (USA)
Mareen Hufe (GER)
Anna Ross (NZL)
Rachel Joyce (GBR)
Amy Marsh (USA)
Ashley Clifford (USA)
Sara Gross (CAN)
Rebecca Hoschke (AUS)
Kim Schwabenbauer (USA)
Haley Chura (USA)

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