The Slovakian city of Samorin will provide the venue for the inaugural Challenge Family event known as The Championship this weekend. The race hub will centre around the incredible x-bionic Sphere, a location that has to be seen to be believed.

Text By Rob Sheeley | Images By Witsup, Getty, Breakthrough Media, Delly Carr, James Mitchell, Finisherpix and Challenge Samorin


A large start list with a plethora of quality athletes gives every indication that this race could be one to remember.

(c) Finisherpix

Heather Wurtele sits atop the list and will start as one of the favourites. The Canadian makes her much anticipated return after suffering a calf injury at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside.

Wurtele amassed five half-distance wins in 2016 including Challenge Iceland and also finished third at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. She has already notched up a win in 2017 with victory at Ironman 70.3 Campeche. Wurtele is as classy as they come and it would be no surprise to see her imposing figure on the top step post-race.

(C) Delly Carr

Annabel Luxford absolutely dominated the Australian half-distance circuit over the summer. She won Ironman 70.3 Western Sydney, Ironman 70.3 Ballarat, Ironman 70.3 Geelong and Challenge Melbourne. This will be the opportunity to see her pitted against some of the best in the world. Expect Luxford to be up near the front right from the first stroke of the swim.

(c) Talbot Cox

Ellie Salthouse has been a revelation since she moved to the half-distance. The Australian was recently third in a stacked field at the Ironman 70.3 North American Championships. Late last year she took out Challenge Shepparton and won her first half-distance race at Challenge Melbourne in 2016 as well. Salthouse is a genuine podium contender in any race, regardless of her opposition.

Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media |

Emma Pallant is a model of consistency over this distance. Her recent results include a narrow win at Challenge Mogan Gran Canaria, where she claimed the scalp of none other than Daniela Ryf. She also took out Ironman 70.3 Barcelona again highlighting the fact that she is one of the best in the business over the half-distance. Pallant is armed with a devastating run-leg so anyone in front of her out of T2 will not be able to relax if the Brit is in pursuit.

Radka Vodickova-Kahlefeldt has had a quieter start to the year by her standards but will be ready to come out firing here. The flying Czech can match it with anyone over this journey and will be one to watch on the weekend.

Anja Beranek recently won Challenge Rimini and in 2016 was the Ironman 70.3 European champion. With a strong bike and solid swim/run, the German powerhouse is likely to be pushing for a podium.

Laura Siddall makes her return to half-distance racing after winning Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie early last month. Siddall has plenty of miles in her legs having already raced three full-distance races in 2017 as well as finishing second to Annabel Luxford at Challenge Melbourne. She won her first half-distance event last year at Challenge Poznan before a string of second-placings leading up to her Australian victory. Look for Siddall to be big on the bike and carry that momentum onto the run.

Lucy Charles is a one of the biggest improvers in the sport at the moment. Formerly noted for her swim, Charles proved that she is no one-trick pony at Ironman Lanzarote when she set new swim and bike course records en route to her maiden Ironman win. There is little doubt that she will lead out of the water and give them plenty to catch on the bike.

When it comes to big biking, few can match it with another Brit, Kimberley Morrison. She took out Ironman 70.3 Texas earlier this year and will be sure to light up the Slovakian bike course.

Others to keep an eye on include Natascha Schmitt, one of Europe’s more consistent athletes, Kirralee Seidel who placed behind Luxford on multiple occasions over the summer, Sara Loehr who won Challenge Salou last week and Rachel Klamer who makes the move from ITU to middle-distance racing.

The Championship 2017 Start List

100 Heather Wurtele CAN
101 Anja Beranek GER
102 Annabel Luxford AUS
103 Ellie Salthouse AUS
105 Emma Pallant GBR
106 Radka Vodickova-Kahlefeldt CZE
107 Lucy Charles GBR
108 Rachel Klamer NED
109 Kimberley Morrison GBR
110 Laura Siddall GBR
111 Jen Annett CAN
115 Fabiola (Adriana) Corona MEX
117 Erika Csomor HUN
118 Maria Czesnik POL
119 Sara Dossena ITA
121 Syliva Gehnboek AUT
124 Corina Hengartner SUI
127 Paulina Kotfica POL
130 Sara Loehr (Munoz) ESP
131 Hannah Maksimava BLR
133 Kristina Nec Lapinova SVK
134 Ana Pais Santos POR
135 Romina Palacio Balena ARG
137 Vanessa Pereira POR
138 Daria Radczuk POL
139 Frankie Sanjana GBR
140 Jenny Schulz GER
141 Ulrike Schwable GER
142 Kirralee Seidel AUS
143 Sonja Skevin CRO
146 Judith Vaquera (Corachan) ESP
148 Dana Wagner GER
151 Katharina Wolf GER
153 Laura Zimmermann GER
Natascha Schmitt GER
Svenja Thoes GER


About The Author

Rob Sheeley is the Race Editor for WITSUP

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