Photos: Ray Tiddy

By Kent Gray/ in Wanaka
As if we couldn’t love adopted Kiwi Els Visser anymore, she selflessly goes and dedicates her overdue Integrity Homes Challenge Wanaka victory to stricken Brazilian rival Luisa Baptista.

“I’ve also been racing for a good friend of mine today, she’s a Brazilian, she’s Luisa Baptista, and she had a really bad accident at the end of December, she’s in hospital for nearly two months and she’s fighting for her life.

“…she’s an incredible athlete, incredible personality and we are just grateful that we can race and that we are out on the course, so she was in my mind a lot today.

“This victory is for her. I hope to be back with her on course soon. “

If you are ever in need of good ju ju from anybody, even from half a world away, Visser isn’t a bad choice. Remember, this is a woman who knows how to fight after swimming for 8 hours with a Kiwi woman named Gaylene, to be saved from uninhabited island after the dive boat she was on off Indonesia in 2014 was shipwrecked on a reef.

Visser showed real reliance again on Saturday to make up more than four minutes on Clarke who predictably led out of Lake Wanaka.

“I knew that I had some gap [to bridge] after the swimming, Rebecca is just an incredible swimmer, but I rather just focus on my own race and push away on the bike and yeah, I felt pretty strong so it was good to catch up with them.

“I just focus on the next 10 metres ahead of me. I knew I had quite some work to do to close the gap to the girls ahead of me. But the only thing I can control is my own race and the kilometres ahead of me and of course the environment is stunning and incredible but in the meantime it is hard work and I am here to race, to give my absolute best so I was especially focused on that.”

Els Visser.
Rebecca Clarke.

A 1:33:27 split for the 21.1km run around Bike Glendhu sealed the deal. Siddall matched Visser to put Clarke under an little more pressure for the silver medal than she was aware.

“Last year was a bit of a bummer to finish in second and I really wanted to …I think I needed [deserved] that win last year but yeah, getting back this year, getting another chance …

“I thought this run would be a bit to my advantage so I didn’t go out too crazy and yeah, actually it was pretty controlled, just a really good day and I could enjoy it a bit, lots of cheers and just an incredible day.”

An emotional one too.

Whoever knows what is is store when Visser looks to defend her Ironman title in Taupo on March 2. There’s every chance it will be memorable, whatever the outcome.

Full Challenge Wanaka results HERE.

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