Auckland will host an Ironman 70.3 championship event – essentially a half Ironman – on January 20, the first of what will become an annual event.
This country's best ironman Cameron Brown hopes Auckland's inclusion on the world circuit will inspire a new generation to take up his demanding sport.
Brown attended the announcement of the event at Auckland's Viaduct Basin yesterday and spoke of the inspiration he gained from watching the Ironman races held in his home city for 14 years until 1999 when it moved to Taupo.
Taupo will continue to host the full Ironman endurance event in early March and the Auckland event, coming six weeks earlier, will be an ideal buildup race.
"Much of my passion for the sport came from those days as a kid watching Ironman from along the Auckland waterfront," said Brown, a 10-time Ironman New Zealand champion and one of the most respected athletes in the business.
"The Ironman 70.3 races are booming around the world for both professionals like myself, as well as keen amateurs. I am a proud Aucklander and this is a chance to show our city off to the world."
There are more than 60 Ironman 70.3 events staged around the world this year and Brown's next competitive outing will come at one of them, the Cebu race in the Philippines on August 5.
But few will have a striking backdrop as the Auckland event which will use the Viaduct Events Centre as its headquarters. The course comprises a 1.9 kilometre one-lap swim in the Viaduct Harbour, a 90km bike course over the Harbour Bridge followed by a two-lap city section to St Heliers, and a 21.1km two-lap run along the Auckland waterfront. The finish line will be in the heart of Wynyard Quarter.
The Auckland event will put heat on Tauranga's established half ironman, which is raced just two weeks earlier. Auckland's official status as the Asia Pacific Championship gives it the advantage of helping athletes qualify for the annual Ironman 70.3 World Championship at Las Vegas.
Auckland is expected to attract more than 1200 professional and age-group participants, including a significant number of international athletes. The event will offer a professional prize purse of US$75,000 (NZ$95,000), 1500 professional points for the elite field and 45 age-group qualifying slots for the Ironman 70.3 world championship.
The launch yesterday featured American Scott Molina, the original Ironman NZ winner and 1988 Ironman world champion.
Andrew Messick, chief executive of World Triathlon Corporation, said it was fitting for Auckland to get back on the Ironman map.
"New Zealand and Auckland hold a special place in the history of Ironman and the sport of triathlon," he said.
"When the Ironman team began to expand the event series globally, Auckland was chosen as the first international venue.
"Over the years, New Zealand has embraced the sport of triathlon with an unmatched enthusiasm, while producing incredible talent. It's fitting to bring a major championship to New Zealand and to the magnificent city of Auckland."
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