New Zealand’s Braden Currie smashed the competition and the course record at IRONMAN Cairns with a commanding performance in Queensland, as he claimed the Asia-Pacific championship title with a truly remarkable race.
Home favourite Steve McKenna fought valiantly all day in second, as veteran Tim van Berkel pulled it out the bag to land on the podium ahead of former IRONMAN World Champion Pete Jacobs and in-form Kiwi Mike Phillips.
In the women’s race, Kylie Simpson kept her hopes of an Australian triple crown (IM Australia/Cairns/Western Australia) alive as she won by a huge margin after a great marathon ahead of Radka Kahlefeldt in second and Penny Slater in third.
Out of the water, Tuan Chun Chang of Taipei led with a brilliant swim, closely followed by Currie, McKenna and Jacobs, as the quartet exited the water right around the 45 minute mark, with Phillips next out of the water at +1:43.
Further back, Blake Kappler and Ben Phillips of Australia, along with Van Berkel, finished the swim with a deficit of around three minutes to the leaders, as the first ten men made their way into transition within a couple of minutes of each other.
Currie, Chun Chang, McKenna and Jacobs were stuck together like glue for the first quarter of the bike leg, by which time Mike Phillips, who won IRONMAN New Zealand at the start of the season, had remarkably closed a gap of almost two minutes and made his way up to the front pack, with Chun Chang dropped as the group made it to halfway.
At the 94km mark, the leading quartet had almost four minutes over next best placed Matt Burton of Australia, with van Berkel more than six minutes adrift at +6:33, as the front group showed no signs of slowing down.
At the 133km mark, Jacobs cracked, losing the group and suffering for it, as he was caught by Burton over the final stages of the bike. The leading trio entered transition with +2:43 to Burton, who out-biked the field with a strong 4:19 clocking, as Jacobs came into T2 in fifth, +6:26 down.
Out on the run, Currie quickly dropped Phillips and squeezed hard to get rid of McKenna, eventually opening up a gap of more than a minute to the IRONMAN Australia winner by the 10km mark. From then onwards, the gap just kept growing, reaching +4:44 by halfway, by which point van Berkel had passed Burton, Phillips and Jacobs to move into third.
Over the latter half of the marathon, Currie was flying, as the Kiwi stormed home to take the win by over ten minutes following an incredible 2:37 run split, with McKenna holding on to second ahead of van Berkel, as Jacobs ticked off his Nice qualification with a strong fourth.
With that performance, Currie now looks to be a serious contender for the world title in Nice, as he beat the Cairns course record of 7:52:53, set last year by none other than Max Neumman, by close to three minutes. Third at the IRONMAN World Championships in St George last year, what does Currie have up his sleeve for Nice?
Out of the water, Kahlefeldt led the way, as she exited side by side with defending champion Sarah Crowley, with the pair coming into transition almost five minutes ahead of the rest of the competition, as third place Emily Donker was +5:03 adrift in T1.
Simpson, who after winning IRONMAN Australia at Port Macquarie was one of the favourites for the event, entered transition more than ten minutes behind Crowley, at +12:31, after swimming a 1:04 split in comparison with Crowley’s 51:35.
Out on the bike, Kahlefeldt and Crowley extended their lead on the field by working together at the front of the race, with only Simpson successfully clawing back time on the pair, as she moved into third place by the halfway mark, moving to within +8:48 of the leading duo.
Despite staying together until the final stages Simpson continued to catch the front, moving to within 90 seconds by 167km, before Crowley dropped Kahlefeldt to enter transition with just 30 seconds over Simpson, who had caught Kahlefeldt in the closing kilometres of the bike.
Out on the run, Crowley was quickly caught by Simpson, who then never looked back, going from strength-to-strength throughout the marathon to eventually win by close to twenty minutes, as Crowley faded and was caught by Kahlefeldt and eventually Slater, with the defending champion eventually coming home in fourth.
Following her victory, Simpson now has IRONMAN Western Australia left on her list if she wishes to emulate Crowley and accomplish the triple crown of winning all three major long distance races on Australian soil in a single calendar year.
IRONMAN Cairns 2023 Results
IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship
Sunday June 18, 2023 – 3.8km / 180km / 42.2km
- 1. Braden Currie (NZL) – 7:50:11
- 2. Steve McKenna (AUS) – 8:01:00
- 3. Tim van Berkel (AUS) – 8:04:55
- 4. Pete Jacobs (AUS) – 8:09:49
- 5. Mike Phillips (NZL) – 8:17:14
- 1. Kylie Simpson (AUS) 8:40:53
- 2. Radka Kahlefeldt (AUS) – 8:58:49
- 3. Penny Slater (AUS) – 9:05:50
- 4. Sarah Crowley (AUS) – 9:25:00
- 5. Kate Gillespie-Jones (AUS) – 9:29:01