Images courtesy Ironman.com
By Kent Gray/Triathlon.kiwi
Braden Currie might be one of the fittest 36-year-olds on the planet but even he knows Father Time waits for no man, not even those of the iron variety and especially not in Kona.
That goes some way to explaining why the Wanaka warrior has gone all in on the 2022 VinFast IRONMAN World Championships, desperate to become the first Kiwi male to take the top step of the podium on the Big Island sometime just after lunchtime on Sunday (NZT).
There’s the also not insignificant matter of Currie finishing third at the rescheduled 2021 IRONMAN World Championship in St. George. Utah five months ago, a massive confidence-boost heading into the legendary 3.9km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run odyssey through the windswept lava fields of the Kailua-Kona on Oct. 8 local time (the Pro men take the start hooter at 05:25am NZT on Oct. 9).
Add the character-shaping experience of seventh (2019), fifth (2018) and 30th (2017) placings in his three previous Kona starts, the relocation of his family to Noosa for a mammoth training block in similar heat/humidity/wind conditions and a dialled back racing schedule in 2022, and you get the picture.
“It’s about making the most of the opportunities while you have got them,” Currie told IRONMAN.com.
“I’ve been lucky to experience longevity in this industry and I might only race for another couple of years so I will be giving it as much as I can. It’s exciting, a little bit nerve-racking but all in all I’m just looking forward to racing it”.
Erin Baker, MBE, twice captured the women’s title at Kona in 1987 and 1990 (along with three silver medals) but no Kiwi male has reached the top step. Cameron Brown, ONZM, has come closest, finishing second (in 2001 and 2005) and third (2002, 2003).
Currie hopes he can remain in touch through the opening 184km before allowing his natural ability in the marathon to change that narrative.
“Kona isn’t about being really fast on one discipline, it’s about being consistent across all. You have to keep yourself in the race, the field is too strong and competitive to fall back 4-5 minutes on the swim for example,” he said.
“So my focus has been not to have a weakness, but if I do fall back slightly, I know I can lean on my running. It’s about having the tools in the tool bag to give it every shot I can.
“I like the challenging environment that this place puts on so I’m excited to be there. I think also, we haven’t had a Kiwi male ever be on the top of the podium at this event so if I can step up a step or two then I’ll be pretty stoked.”
The pandemic means its been three years since the IRONMAN World Championship was last raced in Kona. Currie qualified by finishing third in Utah and after kicking on to a silver medal at the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns in June, he moved to the Sunshine Coast to churn out the training miles necessary to contend in Kona.
“It’s such a unique environment to be able to race in, the external factors and challenges around racing in this environment make it potentially one of the toughest races in the world. Then you also throw in there 60 of world’s best guys all vying to probably win what is the biggest event in our sport, it makes for a pretty tough and brutal but exciting day, it’s great to be back,” said Currie.
“For me it’s just been progression all along, I always like to take steps forward not backwards, so I’m really excited to be back on the world stage and to have a second shot at the world title within the year. Utah was a great result for me and really big step forward in a lot of ways within my racing on a world platform.”
Spain-based Taupo 25-year-old Kyle Smith will line up alongside Currie in the men’s race (from 5.25am, Sunday, Oct. 9 NZT) while Aucklander Rebecca Clarke, fresh from an 8th place finish in the PTO U.S. Open in Dallas, will fly the Kiwi flag in the pro women’s race on Thursday, Oct.6 (Friday NZT from 5.25am). Stay tuned to Triathlon.kiwi for full coverage from Kona which includes a plethora of inspirational Kiwi age-groupers.
Tune into live race-day coverage of the 2022 VinFast IRONMAN World Championship triathlon globally via IRONMAN Now™ available on Facebook Watch, YouTube and Twitch.