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Ironman

The 21 American Pros Set To Compete In Kona

Here’s a run-down of the top U.S. Ironman athletes—seven men and 14 women.

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Want to know who’s representing the U.S. on the 2014 Ironman World Championship start line? Here’s a run-down of the top U.S. Ironman athletes—seven men and 14 women.

The Men

Tim “T.O.” O’Donnell
Top Kona result: Fifth (2013)

After O’Donnell’s best-ever Kona finish in 2013, he ended the year with a Kona-validating Ironman finish in Florida then a wedding to two-time Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae. His 2014 season hasn’t been particularly impressive—with an Ironman 70.3 St. Croix victory and podium finishes at 70.3 Eagleman and 70.3 Brazil. However, his early Kona validation will give him fresher legs than most, allowing him to run his way back into a top-five finish.

Andy Potts
Top Kona result: Seventh (2008 and 2012)

The former college swimmer and Olympian can contend at any distance—from Olympic to Ironman. He’s almost always first out of the water (and his absence from the start line in 2013 certainly changed the race), but his decision to not race 70.3 worlds this year may suggest Potts is putting more of his focus on Kona. This season he had victories across multiple distances—Ironman Coeur d’Alene, Ironman 70.3 Calgary and Escape from Alcatraz—and it looks like he could be in prime form come Oct. 11.

Ben Hoffman
Top Kona result: 15th (2013)

A multiple Ironman champion who’s known for his speedy bike splits, Hoffman will be looking to improve on his 15th-place finish in Kona last year. His season has included multiple podium finishes, including Ironman Coeur d’Alene, Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, 70.3 Lake Stevens, 70.3 Monterrey and the off-road race Xterra Beaver Creek. Most recently, he finished 16th at 70.3 worlds in Mont-Tremblant in early September.

Matthew Russell
Top Kona result: 18th (2013)

Russell has raced six full Ironmans since his 18th-place finish at Kona last year: He placed ninth at Ironman Arizona at the end of 2013, then finished sixth at Ironman Cabo, second at Texas, sixth at Coeur d’Alene, seventh at Ironman Canada (Whistler) and fifth at Mont-Tremblant in August. He was also third at Wildflower Long Course, but Russell had to work hard to earn some final Kona points and may not be as fresh as others.

Andrew “Starky” Starykowicz
Top Kona result: 19th (2013)

Another American powerhouse on the bike, Starykowicz holds the Ironman bike split world record (4:04:39, which he set in 2012) and he’s the first American to finish an Ironman in less than eight hours. He’ll likely be at the front coming into T2 in Kona, but he struggles to hold on during the marathon. Since Kona last year, he had a runner-up finish at Ironman Florida (where he went sub-eight), victories at 70.3 Eagleman and 70.3 Muncie and podium finishes at 70.3 Racine and 70.3 Muncie.

T.J. Tollakson
Top Kona result: 20th (2013)

An Ironman champion and strong cyclist, Tollakson had his best race to date in Kona last year with a 20th-place finish. He planned to race an early-season Ironman this year, but because of an injury, he had to race a late-season Ironman to earn enough points to make the cutoff for Kona. It paid off for him—he won the Ironman North American Championship in Mont-Tremblant in August while setting a course record—but we’ll see if his best race this season was in Canada.

Justin Daerr
Top Kona result: 63rd (2010)

Boulder, Colo.-based Daerr earned his first Ironman title this year at Ironman Boulder, and planned to race Ironman Tahoe, which was canceled due to unsafe conditions. This season he also earned top finishes at Ironman Texas (third) and Wildflower Long Course (fifth).

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The Women

Meredith Kessler
Top Kona result: Seventh (2013)

Veteran long-course triathlete Kessler had an impressive Kona race in 2013—as a strong swim-biker, she was in the lead pack on the bike heading into T2 and took the lead early in the marathon, getting passed at mile 5 by Rachel Joyce. She eventually finished seventh after being passed by fellow American Caitlin Snow in the finish chute. Her season has been the best yet—since finishing as the runner-up at Ironman Arizona in November, Kessler earned multiple titles this year, including Ironman New Zealand, 70.3 St. George, 70.3 Mont-Tremblant and 70.3 Vineman. She capped that off with a fourth-place finish at 70.3 worlds in Mont-Tremblant. If she’s healthy and fresh in Kona, she has the best shot at getting an American on the podium.

Mary Beth Ellis
Top Kona result: Fifth (2012)

The multiple Ironman champion’s long-course triathlon career looked so promising until she crashed in the lead-up to Kona last year. As a result, she DNF’ed, and she hasn’t quite returned to the same from we saw prior to her crash. The highlights of her season have been a runner-up finish at the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship and fifth in a stacked field at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Mont-Tremblant in early September. The fierce competitor is certainly capable of a top finish in Kona if she’s healthy.

Caitlin Snow
Top Kona result: Sixth (2013)

A former collegiate national champion, Snow is a speedy runner. She stays relatively off the radar most of the triathlon season before showing up in Kona and showing her run strength—the last four years, she’s earned a top-10 finish in Kona, including sixth last year. Her season was highlighted this year by victories at Ironman 70.3 Florida and Ironman 70.3 Steelhead.

Linsey Corbin
Top Kona result: Fifth (2008)

Corbin has had multiple top-10 Kona finishes, and she had an excellent season this year with less racing than previous seasons. Besides earning victories at Ironman Los Cabos and Ironman Austria, she also set the women’s American record for fastest Ironman finish.

Amanda Stevens
Top Kona result: 11th (2013)

After earning her top finish in Kona ever in 2013, she posted a DNF at Ironman Arizona in November, followed by a podium finish at Ironman Cozumel in December. Her season was mostly taken up with racing 70.3’s—including podium finishes in Puerto Rico and Brazil, fourth at 70.3 Timberman and fifth at 70.3 Kansas. You can expect the speedy swimmer to once again be leading the pro women out of the water in Kona this year.

Kelly Williamson
Top Kona result: 13th (2011)

After taking a year off from racing Kona, Williamson is returning at the end of what has been a great Ironman season for her. She earned an Ironman Texas title in May then a runner-up finish at Ironman Coeur d’Alene in June. Williamson is typically known for her run strength, so expect a speedy marathon from her off the bike.

Bree Wee
Top Kona result: 13th overall female, as an amateur (2007)

Kona local Wee has the advantage of training on the Kona course and in the conditions with the support of the local crowd on race day. However, Wee also showed her strength racing in other conditions and at altitude with her victory this summer at Ironman Canada (Whistler), which earned her a start on the Kona start line.

Liz Lyles
Top Kona result: 16th (2013)

In only her second year racing as a pro, Lyles earned a spot on the Kona start line in 2013 and earned valuable racing experience with her 16th-place finish. This year, she racked up a string of runner-up finishes, almost all in competitive fields—at Wildflower, Ironman 70.3 Boise, Ironman Frankfurt and Ironman 70.3 Lake Stevens.

Jessie Donavan
Top Kona result: 13th (2013)

Third-year pro Donavan, who’s known for her strength on the bike, flew relatively under the radar this year, with a runner-up finish at Ironman Cozumel in December and a fifth-place finish at Ironman Brazil. Her Kona prep changed when Ironman Lake Tahoe was canceled due to unsafe conditions from a nearby wildfire, but perhaps the change of plans will help her best her 13th-place 2013 Kona result.

Amber Ferreira
Top Kona result: Has not raced

This Kona rookie had a great year racing as a pro, including taking the title at Ironman Lake Placid and a runner-up finish in the late-season Ironman Mont-Tremblant. She was also third at Ironman Texas and fourth at Ironman 70.3 Florida. Since it’s her first year racing on the Kona course, it’ll likely be a big learning experience for Ferreira.

Beth Shutt
Top Kona result: Has not raced as a pro (finished 11th in 30-34 age group in 2011)

Shutt ended 2013 with a runner-up finish at Ironman Wisconsin and ninth-place finish at Ironman Arizona. This year, she’s impressed with top finishes at Ironman Mont-Tremblant (third), Ironman Los Cabos (fourth) and Ironman 70.3 Syracuse and Muncie (third at both).

Kim Schwabenbauer
Top Kona result: 22nd (2013)

Early this year, Schwabenbauer had a breakthrough performance when she finished on the podium at the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship in Melbourne in a stacked field. Her season also included a runner-up finish at Ironman Lake Placid and seventh place at Ironman 70.3 Eagleman.

Lisa Roberts
Top Kona result: Has not raced

In her fourth season as a pro triathlete, Kona rookie Roberts (also a Cat. 1 cyclist) has had her best season yet, with three podium finishes at full Ironmans—second at Ironman Los Cabos, third at Ironman France and third at Ironman Lake Placid. She also earned a fifth-place finish at Ironman Brazil.

Jackie Arendt
Top Kona result: 22nd (2011)

Wisconsin-based pro Arendt did a lot of full-distance Ironman racing in the last year to earn enough points to get on the Kona start line. Her best finishes were runner-up at Ironman Louisville, fourth at Ironman Canada in Whistler, and fifth at Ironman Wisconsin (for 2015 Kona points), but she also earned top-10 finishes at Ironman Cozumel, Ironman Texas, 70.3 Florida and 70.3 Eagleman. The packed racing schedule will likely hurt Arendt’s chances, however, of a top finish in Hawaii.

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