Photos: Korupt Vision

By Kent Gray/
Hannah Berry has thrust herself firmly into the lucrative Ironman Pro Series conversation after claiming a career-best victory on debut at Ironman Cairns, the 226km test affectionately dubbed the ‘race in paradise’.

The Mt Maunganui 33-year-old was indeed in triathlon heaven on Sunday after producing a second best-of-the-day bike split and 3:04:53 marathon to sensationally run from 4th to the top step of the podium at the duel Cairns Airport-sponsored Asia Pacific Championships.

Berry won in 8:44:31 – 2mins 21sec ahead of Sunshine Coast based Dutchwoman Lotte Wilms with defending champion Kyle Simpson (AUS) 3rd, 5mins 40sec adrift. Rebecca Clarke made it a memorable day for New Zealand with 5th place in 9:03:43.

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The win means a handy pay day and the maximum 5000 point haul for Berry. It will see the Kiwi long distance No.2 leap 13 places to 3rd in the Ironman Pro Series standings on 9492 points behind Brit Fenella Langridge (9971) and American Jackie Hering (9759).

There’s still a long way to go in the inaugural season – 10 races for the women. But Berry’s 4th at Ironman Texas and win in Cairns mean she’s now well positioned to chase a portion of the US$650,000 bonus prize pool for the top-10 women come the end of the season, conveniently in Taupo which is set to host the Ironman 70.3 World Championships on December 14 (women) and 15 (men).

 “I think the hardest I’ve had to work in a race ever…I mean, a real tough day,” Berry said.

“Started out I had a, basically, a solo swim. Came out 4th behind the front 3 girls [Wilms, American Lauren Brandon and Clarke] who were swimming together, which then led on to being a completely solo ride for a 180 kilometers, which was mentally really tough, to be honest.

“I mean, at every turn around, I could see the front three were working together for the most part of the ride. And I was just a couple minutes back on my own. So that was mentally pretty tough, but I just told myself to put my head down, stick to my numbers, and, yeah, just do what I can.

“Came off the bike and same thing on the run, really. Just settled into my pace and hope that it was enough to get the win.”

It was, with a little help from the rowdy locals, many Kiwis among them.

“The crowd support out there today was unreal. It felt like I was racing at home in New Zealand. There were so many people cheering for me. It was, yeah, unbelievable.

“Really enjoyed it. It was really hard but an incredible day out there.”

Berry ran down the leading trio inside the first 10km of the marathon and thereafter her game face never faulted.

“I often have that sort of laser focused look. I wish I could do more and respond more to the crowd but I hear all those cheers and they mean so much. I’m just trying to stay nice and calm and get to that finish line as fast as I can.”

While the money and points are nice, it’s the top tier title that Berry will cherish the longest. It’s also a huge confidence boost as she plots a course to the VinFast Ironman World Championships in Nice on September 22.

Berry will be out to eclipse her 11th at last year’s worlds, held in Kona.

“Yep, looking forward to that one, it’s going to be an epic day out there in Nice. So, yeah, a little rest now. Then I’ll do a 70.3 before Nice.” “I’m stoked [with 5,000 Ironman Pro Series points]. That’s my second race, two Ironmans done now and pretty decent points out of those two so we keep pushing for the rest of the year and see how we end up,” she said.

“A little break now because I did Texas before this one. So that’s two Ironmans quite close together and then I’ll look to do Ironman 70.3 Zell am See-Kaprun [Austria, Sept.1] which is part of the Pro Series as well. Then obviously, the Nice Ironman World Champs, so that’s the next two.”

But that is for later. For now, Berry and her team, including husband Nick who was there to welcome his wife across the line, will celebrate.

“I don’t know how to put it into words, it means a lot,” Berry said.

“It’s a big step in the right direction for me and it’s exciting. We work so hard for this, and you really have to celebrate these times because sport has its ups and downs, so I’ll be celebrating tonight.”

IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns – Women’s Results

  1. Hannah Berry – 8:44:31
  2. Lotte Wilms – 8:46:53
  3. Kylie Simpson – 8:50:12
  4. Lauren Brandon – 8:52:33
  5. Rebecca Clarke – 9:03:43
  6. Fiona Moriarty – 9:05:53
  7. Ai Ueda – 9:06:50
  8. Giorgia Priarone – 9:09:05
  9. Kate Gillespie-Jones – 9:16:02
  10. Meredith Hill – 9:27:03

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