By Kent Gray/Triathlon.kiwi
You know you’re the real deal when you’re invited to ‘Breakfast with Bob’ in the countdown to the VinFast IRONMAN World Championships in Kona.
Of course, we already knew that two-time and reigning IRONMAN New Zealand champion Braden Currie is a long-distance beast. Brands like Red Bull, Felt, Shimano, Garmin and Asics don’t endorse just anybody, you know. Nor do ordinary folk rattle off four IRONMAN wins, as many Coast to Coast titles and extraordinary win (54%) and podium (79%) percentages from 90 starts in races ranging from Olympic to the ultra-distances. Did we mention Currie’s bronze medal at the 2021 IRONMAN Worlds in St. George, Utah, paradoxically this past May due to the pandemic?
But still, an audience with Bob Babbit, legendary IRONMAN Hall-of-Famer and human encyclopaedia on all things triathlon, during Kona week. That’s something special. It means you have a shot, but then we knew that already too.
The Wanaka warrior talks to Babbit about his Southern man upbringing and his laser focus on Kona this year after previous 31st (2017), 5th (2018) and 7th (2019) place finishes on the Big Island.
There’s some fascinating insight into turning his back on a big payday at last month’s PTO U.S. Open in Dallas, his five-week training block on neighbouring Maui in the company of Kiwi age-group legend Matt Kerr and especially about his previous Kona experiences.
Here are but a few of the key, typically low-key Kiwi takeaways:
On his country boy upbringing and Coast to Coast roots
“I’d be quite happy if they [IRONMAN] put in a good 40k trail run [into Kona], I’d be quite confident that I could take this race out,” Currie joked. “Maybe a run through the lava fields and up the volcano and back would be good.”
On trying to become the first Kiwi male to win
“Cam Brown came close [twice second and twice third], and yeah, what a man he is. Yeah, it would be cool to stand on the top step. It would be an amazing achievement and something that’s been a long time coming I think. New Zealand’s had a strong contingency of incredible athletes over the years and yeah, it was always a shame Brownie didn’t quite win one but hopefully we can change that.”
On when he started to believed he could win Kona?
“I think after my first one I did here, which was a bit of a disaster. I was 30-something [31st in 2017]. The night before I stood on a sea urchin, got a bunch of splines up in my foot and then during the race I took a penalty that wasn’t actually a penalty, it was a time split to the person behind me so that was a five-minute stand down. And then I got a flat tire and then I finished up so yeah, I had a bit of desire after that one to come back and have a better race, make it a bit smoother and cleaner and see what I could do.”
Legendary stuff from a legendary Kiwi. The men’s race, which also features Taupo’s Kyle Smith, takes the cannon on Saturday, Hawaii time (5.25am Sunday, Oct.9 NZT). As an entree, don’t miss Aucklander Rebecca Clarke in her Kona debut in the women’s race on Thursday (5.25am Friday, October 7 NZT), both live on Youtube.
In the meantime, enjoy the full ‘Breakfast with Bob from Kona” episode with the Kiwi No.1.
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.