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Top contenders name their biggest rivals ahead of The Championship clash in Slovakia

India Lee (GBR), Fenella Langridge (GBR), Frederic Funk (GER) and Els Visser (NED) discuss the field ahead of The Championship.

Staff Reporter
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Ahead of the seventh edition of The Championship by Challenge Family, we spoke to the leading professional athletes about who they see as their biggest rival heading into the race.

Defending champion India Lee and last year’s third place finisher Frederic Funk gave some interesting answers, with Fenella Langridge and Els Visser offering an insightful look into the minds of pro athletes in the build up to a major race.

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“Fenella is someone I have raced a lot over the years”

For Lee, who is looking to make it two successive wins in a row in Šamorín this season, her biggest rival this weekend is her fellow countrywoman Langridge, due to the pairs similarities in strengths.

India Lee wins The Championship 2023 photo credit Challenge Family
[Photo credit: Challenge Family]

“I am not really a rival kind of person, but I suppose Fenella is someone I have raced a lot over the years. We are both British, and we have both got similar strengths.

“I’d say, we’re both usually at the front of the swim and the bike in races, so we spend a lot of time in and round each other during the race.”

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Controlling the controllable

For Langridge, when asked who her biggest rival on race day would be, she simply said herself, and explained that focusing on what she could do was of paramount importance to her race performance.

“I’d say myself. Not because I think I am better than anyone else, but if I am in the right headspace, and I have the right mental attitude, everyone should be worried about me.

“I have just got to focus on myself to get the best out of me and if I am to race well, the key will be to concentrate on what I can do right until the end of the race.”

Els Visser Fenella Langridge Radka Kahlefeldt Challenge Canberra 2023
Fenella Langridge [L] and Els Visser [C] pictured at Challenge Canberra.

For Dutch pro Visser, focusing on herself was also the most important factor, with the recent third place finisher at the Singapore T100 highlighting how vital it is to just focus on what you can control.

“In terms of rivals, it is very hard to say, because the only person whose fitness you fully understand is your own. No other athlete is an open book.

“There are lots of great athletes in the field, but there are also more unknown athletes, who can really perform on race day, show up and finish on the podium. You just never know, so you have to run your own race.”

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Funk backing dark horse Heemeryck

Despite being the PTO World #4, Pieter Heemeryck is often overlooked before races, but Funk is one man who knows the talents of his competitor, and backed the Belgian to have a great day.

Pieter Heemeryck IRONMAN Portugal Cascais 2023
Photo Credit: Carlos Iturbe for IRONMAN

“I think Pieter is in really good shape, which he has already showed this season at the Singapore T100 and last year he finished just a couple of seconds behind me in the battle for third.

“He really made me push hard towards the end of the run last year and I think he is in even better shape in 2024. I think he is the one to beat and I really don’t want to enter the run course with him nearby.”

Tomos Land
Written by
Tomos Land
Tomos Land is a triathlon & running journalist whose expertise lies in the professional world of short course & long distance triathlon, though he also boasts an extensive knowledge of ultra-running.
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