AFLW Star to Professional Triathlete: Gillespie-Jones gears up for IRONMAN World Championship in Kona

11 Oct 2023

Photo Credit: Korupt Vision

Former Carlton and North Melbourne AFLW player Kate Gillespie-Jones is preparing to make her mark on her new sport when she takes on the world’s best professional triathletes at this weekend’s VinFast IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawai’i.

The 32-year-old will take part in Saturday’s historic event, with it set to be the first ever women’s only IRONMAN World Championship race day, after male athletes battled it out for their IRONMAN World Championship crown in Nice, France last month.

Gillespie-Jones will line up against the top female professional triathletes in the world, in arguably the strongest field ever assembled, contesting a 3.8km swim, 180km ride and 42.2km run.

“I’m feeling really excited. It’s sort of only just dawned on me that I’m going to be on the start line with best IRONMAN athletes in the world,” said Gillespie-Jones. 

“It will be hard not to fan girl athletes like Daniella Ryf on the start line.  

“My race preparation has been going really well, I have been able to put together a couple of solid months of training since Cairns in June. Training numbers have been great, but it’s not lost on me how tough the conditions will be in Kona.  

“I have an irrational fear of saunas, so I have been doing a bit of heat work on the trainer or overdressed running to prepare for the hot conditions. 

“Unfortunately, due to work commitments, I will be arriving close to race day so have been preparing in Melbourne where temperatures are still pretty low.”

Gillespie-Jones claimed her spot on the biggest stage in the sport with a fifth-place finish at the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns in June this year, her first ever IRONMAN.

“IRONMAN Cairns was such an awesome race. The location is amazing and the atmosphere in town along the run course is incredible,” she said. 

“Leading up to the race it was a bit of the unknown being my first IRONMAN race, but everything went really well on the day. I had done the preparation, and everything pretty much went to plan except some stomach discomfort on the run. Hopefully I have sorted out the stomach for this race.  

“When you are training for an IRONMAN you sort of get tunnel vision and it didn’t really hit me until a few days after the race that I had finished my first IRONMAN and qualified for the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona.”

Gillespie-Jones is still finding her feet in triathlon, have only taken up the sport after finishing up her AFLW career. Between 2017 and 2021 she took to the field 13 times for Carlton and a further 24 times for North Melbourne.

“When I finished up playing AFL, I really wanted to get into trail running and have a bit of fun and take sport less seriously,” she said. 

“But it didn’t take long to find triathlon and become totally obsessed with the sport. I think I have good habits from being part of a high performance environment with AFL which I have been able to carry over to triathlon. I love endurance training and the adventure side of it and all the places you can see on long rides and runs and open water swims.”

While Gillespie-Jones got a taste of how tough an IRONMAN can be on debut in Cairns she’s preparing for things to step up a few levels in the heat of Kona.

“My goal is to do a little bit better than my first IRONMAN in Cairns. I’m keeping in mind that the conditions in Kona can make it a slower race but just hoping to build on my first full distance race.”

“I felt limited during the run in Cairns due to stomach issues so hopefully I can get that right this race and run off the bike to my potential.  

“I’m really proud to be racing the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona in my first year as a professional IRONMAN athlete. This year is all about going to Kona and getting the experience of racing in the tough conditions on the Big Island on the world stage. 

“Hopefully I can take those learnings away and come back and be really competitive here in two years’ time.” 

For more information about the 2023 VinFast IRONMAN World Championship women’s race in Kailua-Kona, Hawai`i, please visit

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