Wanaka’s Braden Currie is just over a week away from a second shot within the year of being crowned World Champion when the VinFast IRONMAN World Championship returns to its traditional home in Kona, Hawai’i, for the first time since 2019.
This year’s event will be held over two days, with the female professionals, including New Zealand’s Rebecca Clarke, racing on Thursday 6 October, while Currie, along with fellow Kiwi Kyle Smith, will take on the men’s professional race on Saturday 8 October.
The 2022 edition arrives just five months on from the rescheduled 2021 IRONMAN World Championship in St. George, Utah, where Currie claimed an impressive third place.
“It’s been three years since Kona has been able to happen and I think it’s pretty exciting. 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.”
It’s been three years since the IRONMAN World Championship was last held in Kona. Conditions on the big island test IRONMAN athletes like few other events in the world, even experienced athletes like Currie, who has raced Kona three times before, finishing fifth on his second attempt in 2018 and seventh the following year.
“I think Kona’s just an incredible beast in its own way, it’s renowned as one of the toughest IRONMAN races you can do around the world. Just so many factors, the course itself, the environment, it’s so hot out there. A 3.8km swim in open water, really warm, the water is about 27, 28 degrees, that kicks things off. The bike ride is renowned for its winds, some incredibly strong crosswinds and some really strong tailwinds, and then the last 40k’s generally a strong headwind so there’s no real free speed out on this course, you’re always fighting something the whole way.
“I think the biggest factor I’ve always noticed on this course is the returning on the bike course where you’re in about 140k and you’ve got 40k to go, and it turns into a big lava field of black rock and you can just feel this 35, 40 degree heat just penetrating off the lava fields and the heat coming back at you and you just want cold. You just want to feel some freshness at that point in time but there’s really no give in and you slowly feel your core temperature, your body temperature starting to rise, but I guess that’s part of the challenge, finding that limit where you can keep going and keep racing but no go over it,” said Currie.
After finishing third at the 2021 IRONMAN World Championship in May, where he qualified for the 2022 event, Currie went on to claim second at the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns in June.
He remained in Australia for a training block on the Sunshine Coast before travelling to Europe to train and race, and for the past month he has been based in Maui, Hawai’i, putting the final touches to his preparations before heading to Kona for the 2022 IRONMAN World Championship.
Currie’s year has been a build toward Kona and tailored to provide the 36-year-old with the best possible platform to win his first IRONMAN world title.
“It’s an interesting sport, we put in a lot of work and time and have committed a lot to the sport so it’s obviously one of the biggest platforms I could ever be on top of in my chosen sport. It would be incredible to be there to do it for my team, my family and everyone who supports me on this journey because definitely it’s an individual’s race when you’re out there, but it’s taken a big crew to get me here and keep me at this level.
“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,” he said.
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For more information about the 2022 VinFast IRONMAN World Championship event, please visit www.ironman.com/im-world-championship.
Header image: Braden Currie finished third at the 2021 IRONMAN World Championship in May. Credit: Korupt Vision