Burton, Berry Are Crowned Champions at IM Cairns

Two new champions and one new course record were created today at IRONMAN Cairns in Queensland, Australia as Aussie Matt Burton and Kiwi Hannah Berry were victorious after 140.6 hot, humid miles of racing against some of the best in the sport.

Burton set a new course record of 7:45:24, besting Kiwi Braden Currie’s previous course record by more than four minutes. Currie himself came in second this year, just over three minutes behind Burton.

Berry crossed the line nearly exactly an hour later in 8:44:31 with Lotte Wilms (NLD) hot on her heels and coming in second just a couple of minutes later.

This was both Burton and Berry’s first wins at IM Cairns and by their own admissions, the biggest wins of their careers thus far.

Brief Race Recap - Men

A stunningly calm day at Palm Cove saw the likes of Andrew Horsfall-Turner (U.K.), Josh Amberger (AUS) and Braden Currie (AUS) leading the charge out of the swim, with Burton coming out of the water in 11th.

A tight pack of nearly 10 men rode together for quite some time before Amberger and Burton made a decisive move near the 110km mark to pull away from the group. Burton continued to use this slight gap to his advantage, pulling into first place with a nearly six-minute lead to Mike Phillips (NZL) as he returned to Cairns to begin the marathon.

Once on the run, Burton quickly became “the hunted” with the likes of Phillips, Joe Skipper (GBR) and Currie putting the pedal to the metal, all hungry to take the lead from Burton. The Aussie “raced his race” in his own words and said that running “strong” was “good enough” for today to hold off Currie to just over a two-minute deficit for 42 kilometers.

Burton came into the finish chute with a look of elation and disbelief on his face and took time to high-five fans and soak in the moment before reuniting with his toddler son and wife across the finish line.

Burton received 5,000 IRONMAN Pro Series points due to his win today.

Brief Race Recap - Women

The women’s race was dominated by three strong swimmers and cyclists for so much of the day: Lauren Brandon (USA), Wilms and Rebecca Clarke (NZL) came out of the water with a solid lead ahead of Berry and immediately began to work together on the bike, rotating race leaders and maintaining mere seconds between the three for much of the bike.
Berry remained about two-and-a-half minutes behind the lead three for nearly the entire bike, which she said was “lonely” and “mentally tough.”

Clarke lost her grasp on Brandon and Wilms just before returning to Cairns, and the run began with Brandon in the lead followed by Wilms and Berry. Berry quickly put time into both super-cyclists and secured a lead near the halfway point of the marathon and was never challenged again, maintaining a two-to-three-minute lead over Wilms for the rest of the day.

Brandon nearly hung onto third, but was passed by women’s course record holder Kylie Simpson (AUS) in the final 10K. Simpson made up a 17-minute deficit coming out of the swim to eventually round out the women’s podium.

Berry received 5,000 IRONMAN Pro Series points as the result of her win in Cairns.

Get to Know Matt Burton

Burton claimed second at IRONMAN Western Australia last December and clocked a 3:59 bike split to boot.

Burton was looking forward to a strong start to his 2024 season when he was struck down by a nasty infection that lodged itself near his fifth metatarsal of his right foot.

After multiple hospital visits and antibiotic trials, Burton was told by doctors that he may need to have half of his foot removed to alleviate the infection and ensure the mitigation of its spread. Burton pleaded with doctors to attempt one more round of antibiotics and wound care - thankfully, a final go at medication worked and the now-IRONMAN champ was able to keep one of his most precious athletic assets, his right foot.

Despite not needing to have parts of his foot amputated, Burton was unable to swim, bike or run for 10 weeks at the start of 2024. While his fitness declined during that time, Burton said after the race that thankfully, “muscles remember” and he was able to call upon decades in the sport to rebuild his race readiness this spring.

Burton noted that the win “means everything” to him and that he will be primarily focusing on the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona this fall from here on out - he raced there two years ago but DNF’d and is now looking for redemption.

“Sport is beautiful, but with all forms of beauty there is trauma and tribulation and it very much became about not just me performing today, but [about] my wife and my son experiencing it as a real team,” Burton said with a huge grin on his face during his post-race interview.

Get to Know Dr. Hannah Berry

Yes, that’s right - your women’s 2024 IM Cairns champion isn’t just a professional triathlete, she also has a PhD in biotechnical engineering.

Berry’s win at IM Cairns is her second IRONMAN victory to date, with her first being in 2021 at IRONMAN New Zealand in her home country. She raced at IRONMAN Texas a couple of months ago, too, and came in fourth which means she already had her IRONMAN World Championship slot to Nice locked in prior to taking the start line at Cairns today.

Berry is a multi-time IRONMAN 70.3 winner including victories at 70.3 Taupo and the Tauranga Half, as well.

Of her race today Berry said it was “honestly…the hardest I’ve worked in a race ever, but [I was] really happy it was enough to get the win.”

Berry noted she will take some downtime now to fully recover from IM Texas and IM Cairns before heading to Europe later this summer to race 70.3 Zell am See and then begin preparations for the IRONMAN World Championship in Nice this September.

After crossing the finish line in Cairns today, Berry shared a long embrace with her husband and was clearly over the moon about her win.

“I don’t know how to put [this win] into words - it means a lot,” Berry said post-race. “It’s a big step in the right direction for me and it’s exciting. We work so hard for this and you really have to celebrate these times because sport has its ups and downs, so I’ll be celebrating tonight.”

IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns – Men’s Results

1. Matt Burton – 7:45:24
2. Braden Currie – 7:48:59
3. Mike Phillips – 7:49:21
4. Arnoud Guilloux – 7:50:59
5. Tristan Olij – 7:54:32
6. Joe Skipper – 7:56:51
7. Mitch Kibby – 7:57:59
8. Greg Barnaby – 7:58:30
9. Nick Thompson – 8:07:15
10. Josh Amberger – 8:08:24

IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns – Women's Results

1. Hannah Berry – 8:44:31
2. Lotte Wilms – 8:46:53
3. Kylie Simpson – 8:50:12
4. Lauren Brandon – 8:52:33
5. Rebecca Clarke – 9:03:43
6. Fiona Moriarty – 9:05:53
7. Ai Ueda – 9:06:50
8. Giorgia Priarone – 9:09:05
9. Kate Gillespie-Jones – 9:16:02
10. Meredith Hill – 9:27:03

Photos 1-3 credit: Korupt Vision, Photos 4-7credit: Kristin Jenny