Last year Meredith Kessler secured a three peat at Ironman New Zealand, a tough and rare occurrence in the world of triathlon. This year the temptation to return to Taupo was too great once again and she’s back, looking to score four from four.

In 2012, athletes were greeted with a weather bomb, forcing organisers to instigate a contingency plan, resulting in a half iron-distance – Kessler won in 4:22:46. In 2013, Kessler returned to Taupo, putting herself deep in the well to get the win over Gina Crawford in a time of 9:17:10. In 2014, the two battled it out again for a shot at the title, with Kessler not only scoring the win for the third year in a row, but also breaking the course record in a time of 9:08:46. She lines up again this year, and so does Crawford, who is coming off another strong win at Challenge Wanaka.

“If you would have told me five years ago, after our first win at Ironman Canada, that there would be a chance at three different race four peats in 2015, I would’ve told you that is crazy talk.” Kessler says. “It has been an epic journey and Ironman New Zealand, in particular, is a special race for my husband and I. You obviously do not take these opportunities for granted and needless to say, a bit of luck is involved along with the hard work of many individuals around me. It just so happens that the stars aligned for three straight races here at Taupo and I certainly hope it can do the same for number four…”

“… To be able to set the course record was indeed magical and this will always be remembered and appreciated. The legends of New Zealand and the sport of triathlon were in attendance last year, such as Jo Lawn, Cameron Brown, Bevan Docherty, and Erin Baker (and many more) so it was tremendous to come through on this unforgettable day! While I haven’t given the record that much thought this trip, it would of course be rewarding to have a go at it again!”

Kessler had a great start to 2015 with a win at Ironman 70.3 Auckland in January, and most recently raced at Challenge Dubai against an incredibly strong field in tough conditions in the lead up to tomorrow’s Ironman New Zealand. “I learned some valuable lessons in Dubai and now it is time to grow and improve in Taupo,” she explains. “The wind, sand, salt water, and all the challenges of Dubai are aspects of racing that I will continue to work on this season. It was a blast to share the course with some of the best in the world – power, strength, stamina, focus and grit like our sport has never seen before in that stellar field of ladies and gents.”

Kessler has battled with illness a touch between these two events, but as usual, she’ll be digging deep from the time the canon fires at the start tomorrow morning. “I’m a big fan of the power of positivity and while I have struggled a bit in the health department between these two races this round, our bodies are resilient and everyone experiences some adversity in one way or another. All we can do is our BEST – and that is exactly the mindset that I have going into this weekend.”

Challenge Wanaka

(c) Challenge Wanaka | Getty Images

Crawford, as mentioned, had another fantastic win at the tough love course in Wanaka just two weeks ago, and thrives on racing. She won there in a wire-to-wire win, but actually prefers to be chasing, rather than leading early. If history repeats, Kessler will be out of the water first, and the hunt can start for Crawford. At Challenge Wanaka, Crawford shut it down on the run with 12 kilometres to go, no doubt to keep a touch of freshness in the legs for the battle tomorrow. Crawford wants this title.

Fellow New Zealanders, Erin Furness, who raced at Ironman Western Australia late last year, and Melanie Burke with a recent sixth place at Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship in Auckland return to Taupo.

Germany’s Maureen Hufe, who was second at Ironman Western Australia with a 9:00:21, will certainly have a  good crack at the podium tomorrow, making her mark on the bike ride. She’s also joined by fellow countryman, Conny Dauben who raced Ironman Mallorca last year finishing in 11:04.

Also representing the USA alongside Kessler, is Stephanie Jones who recently raced at Ironman 70.3 Geelong after a hiatus due to a bike injury last year and finished up in fifth place with a strong bike ride. She will be chasing out of the water, but can make up ground on two wheels. Plus, Jocelyn McCauley, who recently turned pro in January this year, with her first outing in the new category tomorrow.

NB. The temptation of Taupo has filtered throughout Kessler’s family as she returns this year with her husband, Aaron’s parents – there is plenty of fly fishing to be done. 

 

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Stef Hanson. Chief.

Chief and founder of WITSUP Serious about what I do, but don't take myself too seriously

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