The pro women’s pre-race press conference set the stage for what will be an incredibly competitive and open field for Saturday’s GoPro Ironman World Championship. Every member of the podium has a solid track record in Kona: former Ironman world champion Mirinda Carfrae, defending world champion Leanda Cave, 2012 runner-up Ironman Hawaii finisher Caroline Steffen, 2011 fourth-place finisher Rachel Joyce and 2012 fifth-place finisher Mary Beth Ellis. Here’s a quick rundown of what each of them had to say:
Mirinda Carfrae (AUS): Carfrae heads into this race with a score to settle. After winning the race in 2010, a repeat win has stayed just out of reach. However, a runner-up finish behind Chrissie Wellington in 2011 and a third-place finish in 2012 means she’s managed to never finish off the podium in Kona. After 18 months working with another coach and on her own, Carfrae reunited with her longstanding coach Siri Lindley earlier this year.
On her early 2013 season: “My form early in the season wasn’t so good. I had some bad luck early on and unfortunate circumstances, but I turned it around in the second half. My training has been on track. My talent is that I don’t get injured. They have other talents, but that is mine.”
On working with Siri Lindley again: “It was a great choice for me to go back to Siri. I don’t regret those 18 months apart to go off on my own and seek out some different advice. But when she moved her squad back to Boulder I sat down with her. I just wasn’t enjoying the sport as much, so I sat down with her and discussed all that. It’s been better than it ever has been before.”
Rachel Joyce (GBR): After a disappointing 11th place finish in Kona last year due to illness, Joyce has become one of the frontrunners heading into Saturday’s race after her impressive Ironman Texas win in May. Joyce also made a coaching switch for this season from Matt Dixon to Dave Scott.
On her mid-season foot injury and smaller 2013 racing schedule: “It’s been a quieter year this year, I raced quite a few Ironmans coming into this race last year. This year I’ve had a quieter year race wise, but I took quite a lot of confidence from my win in Texas. I don’t think there’s anyone on the starting line who hasn’t dealt with some type of injury coming into this race.”
Leanda Cave (GBR): The reigning Ironman world champion had a banner year in 2012, winning both the Ironman 70.3 World Championship and Ironman World Championship within five weeks of one another. Cave has had a recurring hamstring injury for most of 2013, causing some to question her ability to successfully defend her title.
On dealing with the increased pressure of being world champion: “It took me 6 years exactly how to fit the puzzle of this race together. It’s a very individual thing. I feel from my perspective it gives you a target on your back. But I feel like I’m in a good position being the defending champion but not being pegged as the favorite going in.”
On her injury: “It’s been a bit of a crazy year to get all the attention you receive for winning an event like Kona. I’ve had an injury that’s been nagging me since March. I still come into this race the same way I did last year, coming off of an early season injury. My training has been going better than ever in these last four weeks. I actually think a bit of rest can be a blessing in disguise. Injury is no handicap, it’s hard enough just to get to this race 100 percent, and I feel like right now I’m at 100 percent.”
Caroline Steffen (SWI): Steffen has been pegged by many as the favorite heading into Saturday. She’s has had a phenomenal mid-to late season, winning Challenge Roth and MetaMan within the last few months. However, some question her excessive racing, and how rested she is coming into Kona.
On her 2013 racing season overall: So far I’ve had a great season. I had a slow start, which is unusual for me. I usually peak too early, like in March, and then not so much in October, so I’ve tried to switch that around for this year.
On her frequent racing: “I’ve actually done three races less, so I’m a bit behind. I choose races I like to race, and then Brett chooses races he wants me to do. I like to race. I actually had two months off of racing in May and June because Europe was just covered in rain and snow. I actually feel really fresh for this race.”
Mary Beth Ellis (USA): A longstanding favorite heading into this year’s race, Ellis suffered a broken collarbone in a bike crash one month ago, and for a period of time had scratched her plans to race at all. She’s rehabbed nicely, however, and she’s looking to give it a go despite it all.
On her injury and race plans: “I think the athlete I was at 7:01 on Sept. 9 and 7:02 are completely different athletes. The former was here to win, but the latter is actually even tougher mentally than before. I’m excited to get out there and give it my best shot.”