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An impressive roster of professional triathletes, including two Ironman world champions and several Olympians, have descended upon Cairns, Queensland, Australia for the Cairns Airport Ironman and 70.3 races this weekend.
Chris “Macca” McCormack has generated his usual controversy in the days leading up to the race, announcing on Twitter that he had been hospitalized overnight for a kidney infection. At the pre-race press conference, the 2007 and 2010 Hawaii Ironman winner stated his ailment would not stop him from toeing the line on Sunday.
“I had some kidney issues, but I’ve been told there are no issues now and the doctors gave me the green light,” said McCormack. “Whenever you’re told you have problems with kidneys you are a little freaked out, but it turns out the doctor I had here in Cairns is one of the kidney specialists in the country.”
“Basically, I had a rupture on my right kidney from swimming in dirty water,” he continued. “The doctor told me I couldn’t do any more damage than was already done and he said I might not feel so great heading into the race but I beg to differ; I’ve been told that before by doctors. I feel great right now.”
He will face a strong field that includes five-time Ironman winner Luke McKenzie and 11-time Ironman winner Cameron Brown, who expressed a realistic approach to Sunday’s event:
“I’d love to win over here but it’s always tough racing with the Aussies. Last year the run got up to 30 degrees (Celsius) and running through those cane fields can be pretty rough. Hopefully my 25 years in the sport will help pull me through on race day.”
The women’s race will be notable for the presence of UK athlete Liz Blatchford. The short-course triathlete has been making a name for herself on the 70.3 circuit, winning Ironman 70.3 Boulder and Busselton 70.3. Blatchford will be taking on the full distance for the first time in her career:
“It’s uncharted waters for me but saying that, you’ve just got to go in there with confidence and race as hard as you can. I don’t know what to expect on Sunday really.
Reigning Ironman world champion Pete Jacobs has decided to focus on the 70.3 distance in Cairns this year. His presence at Cairns Airport Ironman 70.3 lends an added gravity to an already heavy pro field. His confidence about Sunday’s race, however, has been shaken by a recent string of bad luck.
“I was feeling really good a couple weeks ago, but I raced Honu last weekend and it was a bit busy and hectic over there. I had really bad back problems during the race and picked up a cold right after the race, so I haven’t felt like myself really,” said Jacobs, “It’s just the half distance and I know I can get through it, but I don’t know if I will be going fast or slow that’s for sure.”
Looking to capitalize on Jacobs’ nervousness is Brad Kahlefeldt, a Commonwealth Games gold medalist. Kahelfeldt, who decided to make the transition to non-drafting long course racing after the 2012 London Olympics, specifically selected the Cairns race for the competitive field, stating he “wanted the opportunity to race the best guys going right now.”
The women’s race will be of note as well, with last year’s winner Sarah Crowley looking to defend her title. Six-time Ironman champion Gina Crawford hopes to unseat Crowley as well as test her mettle in new surroundings:
“I’ve been training in Wanaka and it’s been pretty cold so it’s been a bit mentally tough but I like that. This race will be completely different.”
PHOTOS: 2011 Challenge Cairns
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