Hayden Wilde and Amelia Watkinson have taken out the men’s and women’s races at GWM IRONMAN 70.3 Melbourne, with both athletes impressing on their way to victory.
Wilde and Watkinson made it a Kiwi double on the top step of the podium on Sunday, with Wilde taking the men’s win in 3:19:30 and Watkinson the women’s in 3:53:31.
While the two Kiwis crossed the line first they had contrasting days on the race course, with Wilde dominating from the start to finish to win by almost eight minutes, and Watkinson having to fight her way through the field, only taking the lead in the final kilometre.
Athletes were greeted by strong winds at the race start on St Kilda Beach, with the swim section reduced to 900m for safety reasons, before heading onto the 90km ride and 21.1km run.
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games bronze medallist Wilde finished almost eight minutes ahead of Nick Thompson in second place, with defending champion Steve McKenna 30 seconds further behind in third.
Wilde’s win also secured him a spot on the start line at next December’s 2024 VinFast IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, to be held in his hometown of Taupō, New Zealand.
“I feel real good, there were a few ups and downs this morning with what the swim was going to be like but I think the organisation made the right call and I’m stoked that we got to get wet which was lovely, it was actually still a pretty hard swim out there, it was pretty rough,” said Wilde.
“It wasn’t the fastest swim but it was nice and I was stoked to lead out of the swim. For me I wanted to apply pressure through transition and that first 20km of the bike. I turned around and had a pretty healthy gap and I thought while I’m here I might as well keep pushing and see what I can do. My goal was to ride sub two hours and to ride a 1:56 I was really happy with.
“I had a four minute lead off the bike and coming onto the run the coach said we’re not here to prove points or anything, we’re just here to qualify and get the job done,” he said. “For the first 10km I pushed it at a 3:05 pace and from there I eased up and I was kind of stoked that no-one was around because at the 15km mark the legs started to hurt a little bit and so I shut it down and I’m stoked to have crossed the line here in Melbourne and get the qualification spot for Taupō next year.”
Wilde’s win in Melbourne capped off a busy year of criss-crossing the world as he prepares for next year’s Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
“It’s been a great season, I’ve had a few ups and downs and a few mishaps but it’s really nice to finish off here winning Noosa last week, winning in Melbourne and I’m proper stoked to finish off the year on a high,” he said.
“I ticked all of the boxes to finish the year that I wanted to, winning Noosa with a course record, I was gutted that we didn’t get to do the full swim course because legitimately I can’t take the course record here but I’ll have to come back another year and try and take it, mission accomplished, time to put the feet up and get onto a flight to Fiji for a week.”
Amelia Watkinson had to dig deep for her win in the women’s race, only getting past Natalie Van Coevorden in the final kilometre to eventually win by less than 40 seconds, with Lotte Wilms a further minute behind in third.
Watkinson had to fight hard from the start, coming out of the water almost three minutes off the lead. From there she chipped away throughout the 90km bike leg, eventually returning to transition just 40 seconds behind in fifth. Once onto the run the Kiwi charged her way through the field to win her first IRONMAN 70.3 since the Sunshine Coast in 2020.
“I really had to dig deep for that one but to be honest it’s more satisfying when that’s the case, I’m really happy with the performance and thank you to the other girls for making it a good race,” said Watkinson.
“There was a little bit of anticipation this morning with weather conditions, the swim was shortened a little bit, I don’t know what the time was, it was still pretty cold and choppy out there which is definitely a weak point of mine so I had to quickly change my mindset and get through that. The deficit was certainly more than I would have hoped for, in some ways I expected that and I knew it was going to be a solid opportunity to push the bike and run.
“I think there were four girls ahead of me when we hit the run, I got a few splits, I think it was close to a minute and a half, I knew that two of those girls were short course athletes and definitely recall from being new to the longer distance that around 15 to 18km is when it really hits you. I had some patience and kept on digging and I don’t think I got Nat until about a k to go and I didn’t look over my shoulder until the finish line,” she said.
Watkinson said that the crowd support helped get her across the line in the final stages as she closed in on Van Coevorden for the win.
“I was really pushing, I was talking to my coach on the phone prior to this race and we know that in those last few ks a lot of it is mental and it’s just a matter of how bad you want it and I think someone said that to me out on course, I had a lot of support which was great,” she said.
More than 1,700 athletes took on the third edition of GWM IRONMAN 70.3 Melbourne, crossing the finish line in Catani Gardens in St Kilda.
GWM IRONMAN 70.3 Melbourne is supported by the Victorian Government.
For more on GWM IROMMAN 70.3 Melbourne visit: https://www.ironman.com/im703-melbourne
GWM IRONMAN 70.3 Melbourne – Elite Men
1. Hayden Wilde – 3:19:29
2. Nick Thompson – 3:27:28
3. Steve McKenna – 3:27:54
4. Matt Burton – 3:28:54
5. Sam Osborne – 3:30:21
6. Nicholas Free – 3:32:11
7. Kieran Storch – 3:33:29
8. Jye Spriggs – 3:36:49
9. Calvin Amos – 3:40:09
10. Harry Wiles – 3:40:50
GWM IRONMAN 70.3 Melbourne – Elite Women
1. Amelia Watkinson – 3:53:30
2. Natalie Van Coevorden – 3:54:10
3. Lotte Wilms – 3:55:15
4. Hanne De Vet – 3:58:35
5. Aleisha Wesley – 4:04:17
6. Deborah Fuller – 4:05:12
7. Sophie Perry – 4:06:11
8. Laura Armstrong – 4:07:53
9. Samantha Kingsford – 4:09:44
10. Melanie Daniels – 4:11:42