Photos: Ironman Oceania

By Kent Gray/
Rebecca Clarke has dedicated her maiden Ironman 70.3 victory to her late mother.

The 34-year-old Aucklander won the Sunshine Coast half in 4:13:42 on Sunday by more than three minutes from Aussie Radka Kahlefeldt. Another Australian, Sophie Perry, rounded out the podium in Mooloolaba after Nick Thompson had won the men’s title in 3:40:01 from  Nicolas Free and Mitch Kirby in an Aussie 1-2-3.

In an added bonus, the triumph means Clarke has punched her ticket to next year’s VinFast IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Taupō.

Clarke led out of the water by 24 seconds, spent the bike leg in the company of Chloe Hartnett and then made her winning break early on the run. She completed the half marathon in 1:24:16, spurred to the tape by the memory of her mum.

“The last few kilometres it was really hurting. I was just like, think of getting to that finish line and just enjoying going along the carpet. It made me think of my mum, who I lost five years ago from yesterday,” Clarke told Ironman Oceania.

“It’s a little of a tribute to her, it’s like, this one’s for you, mum. It’s been quite a journey from when we first started triathlon and it was a dream to win one.”

After a trademark fast 25:24 swim, Clarke was caught by Hartnett on the bike. It turned out to be a blessing as the pair eased to more than a three minute lead.

“I always knew it was going to start well for me with a good swim and had a bit of company with Chloe Hartnett and the guys, I was catching a few guys, starting only a minute apart. I think I caught quite a lot of the guys. But I just love it, I love an ocean to swim. It was a beautiful morning,” she said.

“The bike played out how I wanted it to. I knew Chloe was a strong swim-biker and if I can work with her, I think we were both determined to put some time into the other girls. Even though it’s a rather flat course, I think it was harder today, there was quite a strong headwind on the way back, so we kind of flew out. I think I just was very controlled today in terms of just using the tailwind to have gas for the headwind.”

Hartnett was quickest out of T2 and onto the run, but Clarke was determined that this would be her day, overtaking the Australian swiftly and easing herself in an uncatchable lead by the halfway point of the run and never looked back.

“We first got onto the run and knew we had a gap to some fast runners, but I think I was running scared a lot of the time, but I felt actually really great, best I’ve felt for a while on the run,” Clarke said.

“It feels really good. I think it’s still sinking in because I didn’t really believe, I had some belief that if I had a good day, I could win, but until you’re going through it and crossing that line, yeah, it’s hard to believe,”

“Officially on the IRONMAN 70.3 circuit, it’s my first win. I’ve had quite a few seconds and thirds so yeah, it’s a sweet to get first.”

Kiwis Deborah Fuller (04:33:10), Laura Wood (04:34:02) and TQ columnist Heather Neill (04:44:55) were 10th, 11th and 13th respectively in the women’s pro race.

Scott Harpham (03:57:34) was the best of the Kiwi males in 9th in the pro men’s field and 10th overall. Canterbury’s Tom Somerville (04:00:34) was 12th, Matt Kerr (04:03:34) 14th and Jason Christie 15th in 04:04:12.

Men’s champion Nick Thompson.

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