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Four Former World Champions Give Us Their Kona 2018 Picks

We sat down with four former world champions for a candid chat about who they think has the best shot of waking up on Sunday with a new world title next to their name.

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Photo: John Segesta

Craig Alexander

2008, 2009, and 2011 Hawaii Ironman World Champion

For the win: “I’m going to say Javier. I know everyone’s saying he’s going to win it one day, but I think it’ll be Saturday. Even on the faster days, like last year where the über bikers really tore the race apart early, two of the guys on the podium came from a 4:30 bike pack and ran through. I think Javier’s one of the best swimmers in the field, I think he’s the best runner here, and I think he’s strong enough to ride with that group.”

Top five: “I do think [Sebastian Kienle] is going to be on the podium somewhere. I’m going to say Lionel will be up there as well. I think he’s in a good headspace.”

“I’ve got Braden Currie as a dark horse. If he were to win or get on the podium, I wouldn’t be surprised. I’ve got Lange up there for sure, I think he’s good enough to win, but I just wonder about being a German winner how hard and how busy he’s been.”

For the win: “Very hard to pass up Dani (Ryf). I’ve seen her evolve, her body shape, her racing.”

Top five: “Lucy Charles in second. I think she’s amazing, especially for being so young. I’m going to say Rinnie (Carfrae) to run onto the podium. She seems to be in such a good headspace, so motivated, loving being a mom, loving the whole journey. Sarah True and Annie Haug could both be on the podium—they’re both decorated ITU athletes, and they’re just class.”

Photo: Wagner Araujo

Leanda Cave

2002 ITU World Champion, 2012 Hawaii Ironman World Champion, 2012 70.3 World Champion

For the win: “Sebastian Kienle because he’s got some beef with this race. I think his biggest competition (Jan Frodeno) is out, and he’s been around a while, so who knows how much time he’s got left. I think he’s trying to maximize his time left in the sport.”

Top five: “Braden Currie. I don’t think people understand his background, and how XTERRA can make an athlete as strong as he is. He also got the course record in IM Cairns, and that’s a pretty hard race to win over Javier Gomez. Javier Gomez is in my top three—he gets things right from the start. He doesn’t line up unless he knows he’s got what it takes to do business.”

“Given his result last year, Lionel Sanders will be one to watch—though I have seen him struggle a little in the back end of racing at Mont-Tremblant. But, he admitted he did some things wrong.”

For the win: “It’s a no-brainer—Daniela Ryf. She’s been unbeatable all year.”

Top five: “Lucy Charles hasn’t been racing a lot this year, but she’s shown she has the fitness and the form after 70.3 worlds. I feel like a lot of people have overlooked Corinne Abraham, but I’ve seen her race when she’s on point. At Cozumel (in 2015), I was probably the fittest I’ve been in a long time, and I raced her, and she crushed it. And that’s in similar weather conditions as Kona.”

“Annie Haug is my dark horse—she’s tiny, she’s got the strength, and we know she can run. The run on this course is always the deciding factor.”

Photo: Donald Miralle/Getty Images for Ironman

Jan Frodeno

2008 Olympic Gold Medalist, 2015 and 2016 Hawaii Ironman World Champion, 2015, 2018 Ironman 70.3 World Champion

For the win: “My heart says Sebastian. Common sense says Lionel.”

Top five: “Javier will be there. My dark horses are David McNamee, Patrick Nilsson, and Braden Currie.”

For the win: “Daniela needs more than a bad day to get unstuck, but she’s been looking skinny for a very long time. It doesn’t worry me because she’s so relaxed, though. I see her every day almost, and she’s very relaxed—she’s got a great space of mind.”

Top five: “Lucy’s (Charles) just not ready yet. She’s working hard, she’s working well, but even the mind games—she said she wants to break the overall (men’s) swim record here, I think. To me, that’s such a coloration of what Daniela wants to do. Daniela wants to be as good as she can against the men. Now Lucy’s trying to find something where she can measure up with the men, rather than have that direct comparison to Daniela and focus on the whole race. That’s why I think Daniela’s got her mentally checked.”

“Rinnie has really impressed me this year. She’s found the motivation that she’s been lacking. I think she could be rounding out the podium.”

Photo: Paul Phillips

Holly Lawrence

2016 Ironman 70.3 World Champion

For the win: “Definitely Daniela. If she has the race that she should have, I think she’s going to win by a lot.”

Top five: “I think there’ll be a lot of people together on the bike. There are a lot of people at the same standard—like from third place to 10th place. I think it’ll be Lucy (Charles) in second. I think Beth (McKenzie) could run into the top five. Rinnie (Carfrae) could maybe run into the top five. I don’t know about Sarah True—she’s kind of an unknown, whether she’ll blow up or not.”

For the win: “I think the winner will be out of Lionel (Sanders) or Kienle. Lionel’s in insane shape, but I worry that he’s done too much in the last couple of months. In his training videos, he’s doing crazy stuff.”

“I don’t know about Patrick Lange—I think it worked one year, but I don’t think it’ll work the same again.”

Top five: “I think David McNamee will have a strong race again. Javi (Gomez) obviously, but he could blow up.”