Frodo and Sebi

For all their other fine races and remarkable results, defending Ironman World Champion Jan Frodeno and 2014 Ironman World Champion Sebastian Kienle are dead even at Kona.

Last year the 2008 Olympic gold medalist, 2014 Ironman 70.3 World Champion, course record holder at Ironman Frankfurt, and world-best performer at the Ironman-distance won Kona in 8:14:40.

In 2014, the two-time Ironman 70.3 World Champion and 2016 Ironman Frankfurt winner won Kona in a time of 8:14:18 - 22 seconds better than his much taller German compatriot.

They went about their separate triumphs in markedly different fashions. Frodeno swam 50:50 to Kienle's 54:38. Kienle out-biked Frodeno 4:20:46 to 4:27:27. On the run, the Uberbiker was closer than expected to the Olympic gold medalist speedster, just 2:15 slower than Frodeno's 2:52:21 marathon.

Cut down to the essentials, Frodeno and Kienle are 1-1 at Kona.

While they may be rivals, the two Germans are genuinely fond of one another, which was evident at this year's Kona pro press conference.

When asked how the German tri press regarded his win at Ironman Frankfurt, Kienle drew laughs with a sad-faced, self-effacing look and said, "The first question would have started 'Ah, but Jan wasn't there!' So, I am very happy I am here today and so is Jan."

Still, it irks just a little that Frodeno so often one-ups Kienle's better days. Frodeno's 45:22 swim, 4:09:22 bike split and 2:40:35 run to finish 2016 Challenge Roth in 7:35:39, erasing Andreas Raelert's 2011 world-best Iron-distance mark, was tough enough to swallow. But coming after Frodeno's February calf tear and recovery makes it even tougher.

Kienle had nothing to be ashamed about with his 7:52:43 winning time at Frankfurt this year, although Frodeno's 2015 Frankfurt course record 7:49:48 remains safe. Still, Kienle's 2:44:12 run was surprisingly 6 minutes better than Frodeno's 2015 split. On the other hand, Frodeno's 2015 Frankfurt 4:08:44 bike split was 4 minutes better than the Uberbiker's 2016 mark.

Which shows that neither man is entirely predictable in the biggest races.

Perhaps, however, Kienle is more unpredictable. Kienle admits to his up and down nature: "The answer is like anybody else," he said. "I donít know how my races will go. In the past sometimes I have the thought that I am most fit and it came out differently in the race. Other times I did not feel good before and I had a great race."

Hence Kienle's 8th place finish last year at Kona while his friend and rival won. And Kienle's similarly off-the-back performance at the 2014 Ironman 70.3 Worlds after winning the title in 2012 and 2013.

Frodeno and Kienle maintain an easy affection with no jealousy no matter the results. When Frodeno took home the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 World titles and won a boatload of mainstream sports awards, including the prestigious Laureus World Action Sportsman of the Year, Kienle said, "In the last 2 or 3 years, Jan represented our sport very well."

Still, even Frodeno faces what-have-you-done-for-me-lately questions himself.

After his triumphant victory at Roth, Frodeno was asked why he passed up Ironman 70.3 Worlds - at which a win would have given him a chance at a million dollar payday if he won the final race in the Nasser Bin Hamad al Khalifa Triple Crown.

Frodeno started by declaring, "I wanted to give this race [Kona] the respect it deserves."

Then he added: "I hope to make a million dollar payday on Saturday," said Frodeno.

Starting with the $120,000 first place prize and then more sponsorship deals?

"It is an exciting time in triathlon," said Frodeno. "It's no longer the situation where you are waiting on race organizers until they finally pay your prize money. Itís definitely taken a new professional step forward and I think that is showing as well in salaries that are coming around."

Both men brushed off the notion that the extra attention that comes after a Kona win drove them crazy.

Kienle joked: "I have a lot of fan support but they are not camping in my back yard yet. So it is a good balance. Triathlon fans are fine. They are not getting too offensive. Except a couple of guys around here are wanting to take selfies with me on the bike. It is great our sport is growing not only in Germany but everywhere. So I think to be top German here is quite something."

Frodeno was equally sanguine about the spotlight on Kona champs. "It is a long way between two Konas," he said. "I think there is a balance to find. I was very surprised with the media reaction afterwards. It was huge and very welcome. It just reaffirmed the words [Ironman CEO] Andrew [Messick] spoke. Our sport is growing in the mainstream media and the rate it is growing I think is epic. Not to take anything away from Saturday. The cameras and the limelight are on you when you are on the pointy end of the race. And I have prepared accordingly."