Top contenders up for challenge

Tough competition and conditions compensated for by fantastic crowd support

Competitors Jeanni Seymour (SA), Emma Pallant (Great Britain) and Daniela Ryf (Switzerland) in good spirits at Thursday’s media conference ahead of the Isuzu Ironman 70.3 World Championships
Competitors Jeanni Seymour (SA), Emma Pallant (Great Britain) and Daniela Ryf (Switzerland) in good spirits at Thursday’s media conference ahead of the Isuzu Ironman 70.3 World Championships
Image: Eugene Coetzee

Defending champion Daniela Ryf admits it will be a challenging task to retain her title at the Isuzu Ironman 70.3 World Championships at Kings Beach on Saturday.

Ryf, who is the Ironman world champion, said she was happy to be back in Nelson Mandela Bay where she won the Ironman African Championship race in 2017.

“I have good memories here from last year,” the three-time Ironman 70.3 title holder said. “It feels weird to be back. “Last year when I was injured and I wasn’t even sure if I could do the race. I surprised myself during the race and it was much better than I had expected,” Ryf said.

“Now being back here feeling ready to race and being fit makes it even more special to look forward to the race.”

The 31-year-old Swiss will be up against 2018 Ironman African Championship winner Lucy Charles of Great Britain, South African Jeanni Seymour, who is the 70.3 specialist, having won multi Ironman 70.3 races, and Sarah True from the United States.

True came fourth in the world championships last year in Chenôve.

“It’s great that as women we have our own race,” she said.

“We can race each other without any other distractions – not that men are distractions.

“I am not trying to beat men at all, but it’s interesting to see as a woman how close you can get to them and that is something that motivates me.

“I know this weekend will be challenging – there is a lot of good competition and I am really happy to be here with the best in the world.

“I think we have a great field in the women’s field on Saturday.

“The race will be full-on from the start – there are lot of fast swimmers, and fast bikers and runners.”

Speaking about the course and the atmosphere on race day, Ryf said: “It’s a challenging course – the ocean can be quite rough, the bike can be windy.

“It’s challenging. I really like that. It’s definitely a good thing that I have raced here.

“The atmosphere here last year was really amazing.

“I felt really welcome from when I arrived. I got the feeling that people here are very passionate about this event.

“I really feel at home. It’s nice to be here – especially on the run course, the atmosphere is amazing.

“There are barbecues [braais] along the run course and people cheering for you.

“It’s really special and I am looking forward to having some barbecues after the race.”

Johannesburg professional athlete and 2018 Ironman 70.3 Buffalo City winner Seymour said she was very humbled to be among the best triathletes in the world.

The 26-year-old, who is based in America, said racing back home where it all started was very emotional.

“This is where my journey started in triathlon and for the world champs to be in South Africa makes me very emotional,” Seymour said.

“I wouldn’t even [have imagined] to be among the best in the sport, so I am pretty humbled. It just goes to show how far I have come.

“I left home when I was a 20-year-old trying to make it in this sport.

“I was just a young girl with a dream and I tried my best, knowing that I have hard work going for me.

“So I pretty much threw myself in at the deep end, trying to make it as a professional.

“I am really proud to be sitting here as one of the few South Africans, not only in this field, but as a professional.”

The women’s race gets under way at 7.30am on Saturday. The men’s event will happen at the same time on Sunday.