Just a few years ago, the prize purse and Kona points were much smaller than they are today for the U.S. Professional 70.3 Championship at St. George, Utah. But this time around, the $75,000 prize purse and the 1,500 Ironman qualifying points have attracted a pro field deep in quality and quantity.
For starters, there are two Olympic medalists, nine ITU World Championship medal winners, eight Ironman 70.3 world championship podium placers, three Ironman World Championship medalists and two XTERRA World Champions in this star studded field.
Canadian Brent McMahon will be defending his men’s overall victory and American Kevin Collington will be trying to repeat his U.S. Pro 70.3 title ideally on the top podium spot, but they both will face formidable opposition.
Currently red-hot men’s contenders include 2008 Olympic gold medalist Jan Frodeno, who won Ironman 70.3 races at South Africa and Oceanside earlier this season; 2006 ITU World Champion Tim Don, who also won Ironman 70.3 races at Monterrey and Brasilia this year; 2013 Ironman 70.3 and ITU long distance silver medalist and 2008 Ironman 70.3 World Champion Terenzo Bozzone; 2012 and 2013 Ironman 70.3 World Champion Sebastian Kienle, who recently scored 3rd at Oceanside 70.3; 2007 Ironman 70.3 World Champion and recent Oceanside 70.3 runner-up Andy Potts; 3rd-place Ironman 70.3 World Championship finisher and 2013 three-time Ironman 70.3 winner Joe Gambles; recent Ironman 70.3 South Africa winner and 4th place Kona performer James Cunnama; and recent Ironman 70.3 Panama runner-up and ITU short course stalwart Matt Chrabot.
World class contenders hoping to come back to form include Marino Vanhoenacker, who had to sit out last year with injury and has made a mild return to competition with a 6th place at Ironman Melbourne in 2014; and two-time Olympic medalist Bevan Docherty, who made a big long course splash with a record-setting win at Ironman New Zealand in 2013 and had a podium at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships a few years ago.
There are plenty of other renowned triathletes ready to attack, including Jordan Rapp, Paul Matthews, Maik Twelsiek, Timo Bracht, Trevor Wurtele, Matt Reed, Tim Reed and a more seasoned version of cycling prodigy Andrew Yoder.
The women are led by 2014 Ironman 70.3 Panama winner and race record holder Angela Naeth; Canadian Heather Wurtele, who decisively defeated top fields at Ironman 70.3 races in Monterrey and Oceanside and won 70.3s last year in Panama and Calgary; Meredith Kessler, who placed a solid 3rd at Oceanside 70.3 a few weeks after smashing the race record at Ironman New Zealand; Jodie Swallow, the 2010 Ironman 70.3 World Champion and 2009 ITU long course World Champion who dominated Ironman 70.3 South Africa and took 4th at Abu Dhabi this year.
Long time stars not yet back to form will include former Ironman 70.3 World Champion and Ironman World Championship 3rd place finisher Julie Dibens, who led Ironman 70.3 California before fading to 4th in her first serious race back in two years; 8-time Ironman winner Mary Beth Ellis, who finished 2nd at Ironman Melbourne and took 7th at Ironman 70.3 Panama; Rebekah Keat, who DNF’d Kona but then finished off 2013 with three straight Ironman 70.3 wins.
It would have been intriguing to see Sarah Haskins, who has won all of her first four races back after the birth of her daughter Caroline, attacking her first Ironman 70.3 race, but Haskins announced that she won't race after all.
St. Croix and Wildflower
The St. Croix 70.3 pro fields are not as deep as St. George, but full of quality. Chasing defending men’s champion Richie Cunningham will be triathlon stars Brad Kahlefeldt, Timothy O’Donnell, Greg Bennett, Ruedi Wild, Josh Amberger and Ben Collins. Defending women’s winner Catriona Morrison will have to push hard to outpace current Ironman World Champion and former Ironman 70.3 World Champion Mirinda Carfrae, Czech Republic Olympian Radka Vodickova, four-time ITU Olympic distance World Championship medalist Laura Bennett, and 2012 Ironman and Ironman 70.3 World Champion Leanda Cave, back on the comeback trail after a year lost to injuries.
Last but not least in history, the 32nd Wildflower long course has a strong men’s field trying to deny defending champ Jessie Thomas a rare four-peat. If he is to continue the string he began in 2011, Thomas must fend off decorated challengers like Luke McKenzie, Leon Griffin, Andrew Starykowicz, Matt Russell, Paul Ambrose and Matt Lieto. On the other hand, two-time defending champion Heather Jackson, who recently scored a 2nd place finish at Oceanside 70.3, is a big favorite to score an historic women’s three-peat.