Preview: IRONMAN World Championships in Kona

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Once a year on the big island of Hawaii, something magical starts to happen. Ali’i Drive in the city of Kona begins to slowly fill up with runners. The Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway starts to host noticeably high numbers of some of the most fit cyclists in the world. Downtown Kona starts to buzz with excitement and transform into a place unlike any event of its kind. It can only mean one thing: its time once more for the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona. In truly one of the toughest test of a human’s endurance capabilities, athletes will take to the Pacific Ocean for a 2.4 mile swim, then head out on the scorching Queen K for 112 miles of gruiling pedaling and then top it off with a 26.2 mile marathon run along Ali’i Drive with the privilege of hearing the coveted words “You are and IRONMAN.” With some gutsy performances from Oakley professionals last year, 2011 will be heard to beat. However; a stacked field has returned to Kona this year to battle it out for the title of “World Champion.”

Oakley Athletes To Watch:

Men

Craig “Crowie” Alexander

Craig Alexander enters 2012 as the man to beat (as he does most years in Kona). The three-time IRONMAN World Champion set a new course record in 2011. His time of 8:03:56 was 12 seconds faster than the previous leading time. Alexander is also only the fourth man to ever win the IRONMAN World Championships two years in a row. The 2008, 2009 and 2011 World Champion enters this year’s race refreshed and ready to repeat as champion. Crowie is always a triathlete you can never take your eyes off of.

Sebastian Kienle

Sebastian Kienle has had quite the successful 2012 season. Having already been crowned the IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion in Las Vegas earlier this summer, Kienle looks to bring his A-game to Kona. Widely known as one of the strongest bikers in the field, it will be interesting to see how the ocean swim treats this German stand out. Being Kienle’s first time racing Kona, he is a dark horse, but he will definitely be one watch come Saturday.

Andreas Raelert

Andreas Raelert compliments another powerful German field this year in Kona. Along with his brother Michael and the previously mentioned Kienle, the Germans will be a force to be reckoned with at the World Championships. Raelert completed and IRONMAN (Challenge Roth) in Roth, Germany in the fastest ever time in an IRONMAN race (7:41:33). Raelert has podiumed in each of the last three IRONMAN World Championships, his best finish coming in 2010 when he placed second. Watch out for Andreas and his brother to push the pace on Crowie and some of the other top competitors.

Michael Raelert

This is Michael Raelert’s first appearance in the World Championships, but the young German has a lot to learn from his older brother. Michael can claim the title of 2009 and 2010 IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion and he will be aiming for the big crown this year. Look for Michael to work with this brother Andreas in a show of family effort.

Women

Mirinda Carfrae

One thing Mirinda Carfrae has going for her this year: No Chrissie Wellington! With the 4-time IRONMAN World Champion and defending winner taking a break for the year, Carfrae has a strong advantage on the field. Having won the event in 2010, the Australian knows what it takes to conquer the grueling course. Praised as one of the best runners in the field, Carfrae has taken to the bike to improve her pedaling skills this year. With an all around improved set of skills, watch for Carfrae to battle it out for her second career world championship.

Leanda Cave

Leanda Cave comes into Kona as the 2012 IRONMAN 70.3 World Champion. Having won earlier in Las Vegas, the British triathlete will test her limits at the longer distance. Cave took third at last year’s IRONMAN World Championships, behind Wellington and Carfrae and looks to improve on that mark this year in Kona.

Caroline Steffen

Caroline Steffen, from Switzerland, is a force to be reckoned with. She is tall and noticeably strong. Steffen is the 2010 and 2012 ITU Long Distance World Champion and can claim a second place finish in the 2010 IROMNAN World Championships. Known as “Xena” for her warrior like look and tenacity, Steffen is booked as one of the favorites for this year’s race.

Rachel Joyce

Rachel Joyce hails from Britain and is undoubtedly one of the smartest triathletes in the field (literally). Joyce has a law degree from the University of Birmingham. A swimmer by nature, Joyce rallied her skills into triathlon and has been very successful in doing so. Her 2011 ITU Long Distance World Championship is one of the biggest achievement of her career, and the young Brit looks to improve on her 4th place finish in Kona a year ago.

This year’s IRONMAN World Championships are set up to be another epic battle between some of the best triathletes in the world. The grueling conditions on the Kona course ensure that only the best of the best will come away with the title of “world champion” and this year will be no different. With potentially swelling seas and a chance for some windy conditions, this year’s race will be a true test of conditiioning and will power. Good luck to all the Oakley athletes competing in this year’s IRONMAN World Championships.