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4 June, 2021

Top Female Triathletes Ready For Ironman Cairns

Australia and New Zealand’s leading female triathletes will line up against each other this Sunday at the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns.

Amelia Watkinson winning the 2020 IRONMAN Cairns - Credit FinisherPix

The women’s professional field will see 10 athletes on the start line at Palm Cove, with the 2021 event the 10th anniversary of IRONMAN Cairns.

More than 3,000 athletes are set to take part in either IRONMAN or IRONMAN 70.3 races.

2020 winner Amelia Watkinson returns to Cairns to defend her crown, with the Sunshine Coast based New Zealander the number one seed for the event.

“Last year was a bit of a crazy year of course, it was also a bit hotter being held in September, and I think the preparation mentally was a bit different because it’s hard to fully commit to an event that you think is going to be cancelled,” said Watkinson. 

“I’ve definitely done a lot more volume this year, I think it will really help. You get away with less volume in IRONMAN 70.3 races but in IRONMAN there’s no shying away from the sheer volume to complete the distance fast on race day.”

“I’d love to defend my title at Cairns this year, it’s the Asia-Pacific Championship again and while we may not have the normal international field again you can stack yourself up against the boys and go really fast and I’m hoping for a really strong performance this time around,” she said. 

“I think we’ll have a few dark horses, we’ve got some new girls stepping up as well and some really strong athletes so it will be interesting to see how everyone goes.”

Renee Kiley had her career best IRONMAN finish at Cairns last year, crossing the line third, and she’s looking forward to building on that this weekend.

“It was a great result and between Cairns last year and IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast they were two breakthrough races for me in my career. 

Cairns last year wasn’t a full surprise, I expected a lot from myself in that race, but of course expecting it and actually having it happen are two different things, so I’m definitely coming to Cairns this year with higher expectations on myself given my results last year,” said Kiley. 

“I’m definitely still learning, I’ve only been in the sport for five or six years so there’s always something that I’m learning each race, but I think now I’m at the point where most of my learning is in the mental space and how to approach things mentally rather than physically.

“Traditionally I haven’t been a great racer in heat, but then I had an awesome race in Cairns and it was a really hot day so I guess that’s always been a fear of mine approaching races, the weather and the conditions not being suitable for me,” she said. 

“Having a great race in Cairns has just given me so much confidence that I’m actually quite strong in the heat and I don’t need to worry about it.

“I was thinking the other day was that I’ve always had it in my head that Cairns is not the best race for me and my physiology but I’ve done IRONMAN 70.3 Cairns twice as an age-grouper, the first time was my second ever 70.3 race and I podiumed for the first time and then I did it in 2017 and I won the age-group race and that qualified me for my Pro licence,” said Kiley. 

“Then I did it last year and it was my first Pro podium so Cairns has been special to me and let’s hope it can be even more special this year.”

New Zealander Rebecca Clarke will be making her IRONMAN Cairns debut this weekend, and heads into the race off the back of a second-place finish at Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand in March.

“It’s my first time racing at Cairns, I’ve been a spectator a few years ago so I’m familiar with the area but first time racing,” said Clarke. “I’m looking forward to the bike course the most, I’ve driven up to Port Douglas to go out to the Great Barrier Reef, Palm Cove is a spectacular swim course and the run is spectator friendly, lots of positive feedback from friends who have raced there. 

"The whole season in the last year has been races in New Zealand, races that I love and know well, but I’m excited to be racing overseas. It’s a little bit surreal that we get to race overseas and fly internationally, to be able to go to a different country and experience a new course and see competitors from other countries and have that interaction.

“It’s a bigger field with 10 girls lining up, some I’ve raced against and some that I haven’t, it’s exciting cause you know where you are against those you’ve been racing all summer but it will be great to test against the high quality athletes in the field,” she said.

Cairns based triathlete Sarah Thomas has raced IRONMAN Cairns a number of times but 2021 is set to offer up a challenge of a different kind, her first race as a professional.

“It’s obviously going to be a completely different race, I’m really excited to experience racing as a Pro and lining up alongside all of those girls who are incredible athletes, it’s going to be an awesome experience,” said Thomas. 

“I’ve raced both Cairns and Kona for the last few years and with COVID it made things change, there’s not as many options to go and race different races and I guess after doing the same thing year-in, year-out, I was looking for a different challenge. 

"I don’t have any huge expectations from racing Pros, not expecting to be at the pointy end but I’m looking for a different challenge and to do something different really. Go all in cause there’s no reason not to.

“It’s pretty hectic, my work hasn’t changed since taking my Pro licence, I’m working as a Physio and doing some triathlon coaching and juggling to get the training in,” she said. “Obviously I’m not doing the training hours that a lot of the other girls are doing, far from it, I’m realistic about my expectations and what I can do, and what I can’t do, I’ll just do what I can and enjoy it.”

For more information on the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns visit:

Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns – Female Professional Start List

1 – Amelia Watkinson – New Zealand

2 – Renee Kiley – Australia

3 – Rebecca Clarke – New Zealand

4 – Kylie Simpson – Australia

5 – Courtney Gilfillan – Australia

6 – Helena Hayes – Ireland

7 – Chloe Lane – Australia

8 – Penny Slater – Australia

9 – Shannon Sutton – Australia

10 – Sarah Thomas – Great Britain

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