Corinne Abraham emerges as a new British Ironman star, destroying the opposition to become 2013 Iroman Asia-Pacific Champion.
The Ironman Asia-Pacific Championships showcased a stunning women’s field with some of the best talent in the long distance world descending on Melbourne for the hotly coveted title.
While the race was sure to be competitive and action-packed, spectators were also in for spectacle thanks to the historic and meteoric rise of Great Britain’s Corinne Abraham, who put together a stunning performance to win not only her first ever Ironman but the most important race on the M-Dot calendar outside Kona.
The women’s race began three minutes after the men’s and despite wind-whipped waves, which caused the swim to be halved to 1.9km in length, the familiar frames of the USA’s Amanda Stevens and Meredith Kessler could be seen pushing ahead through the water and into the men’s field.
Leaping from the roughly churning waters in 21:53, the pair ran to transition, stripping off their wetsuits two minutes before the next contenders left the water. Canada’s Tenille Hoogland clocked a 23:41 swim, with race favourite and defending champion Caroline Steffen of Switzerland sixth at 24:34, New Zealand’s Gina Crawford 10th at 25:15, veteran Natscha Badmann of Switzerland 14th and Yvonne Van Verklen of Austria 15th, six minutes down. Wales’ Corrine Abraham concluded the swim in 28:28 for 20th place, seven minutes off the pace.
Kessler – recent winner of Ironman New Zealand – was first to make a move on the bike, pulling ahead of Stevens early on for a slim lead. Meanwhile ex-pro cyclist Steffen was riding hard to diminish leaders’ fast swimming advantages down to only 16 seconds by 35km into the ride. The US’s Sarah Piampiano was another minute back, leading fast-runner Van Vlerken and Badmann.
Steffen surged into the lead at around the 55km mark, but was unable to shake the train of athletes behind her in the strong tailwinds pushing them all onwards at speeds in excess of 60kmph. Meanwhile Corinne Abraham was riding with such strength that it made the course seem pancake flat and the air still, now just 2mins 30secs off Steffen.
Soon it was Badmann’s turn to up the heat, ploughing forwards into the lead. Like Steffen, the original Swiss Miss was initially unable to create a gap, but by 100km she led with Van Vlerken 20 seconds back, Kessler around a minute behind and Steffen another 25 seconds back. Abraham was now in fifth place, less than a minute behind the Swiss star as the women battled into wall-like headwinds that sapped their speed down to 21kmph.
Steffen – perhaps showing the strain from a tough race in Abu Dhabi at the start of the month – was beginning to lose more time, with Abraham quickly taking her fourth place spot. The Brit didn’t stop there however, continuing to drill the pedals and pass both Van Vlerken and Kessler, leaving only Badmann ahead.
Even the six-time world champion couldn’t hold onto the rampaging Abraham as she pushed on to create a two-minute buffer on Badmann and 4mins 30secs on Steffen – whose second wind seemed to have come – by 150km.
Abraham continued to show up the rest of the field with her savage speed, reaching T2 after 4:42:09 on the bike – the day’s fastest ride by some 4mins 49secs – and getting out onto the marathon with more than three minutes’ buffer to Badmann and over seven minutes in the bank to Steffen. Kessler was another minute back with Van Vlerken 12 minutes behind Abraham.
With a few fast Ironman runs already under her belt – including a 3:01 PB at Ironman Texas – Abraham was running with serious speed, putting more distance between herself and the chasing women. Steffen also began the run strongly, managing to overtake Badmann by 13km, though still a long way behind the Brit who held a lead of over eight minutes.
Running 4:25 kilometres, Abraham continued to dominate the run as Yvonne Van Vlerken gained on Caroline Steffen, who looked some way off her 3:01 marathon best. By the time the take for second occurred, Abraham was holding an unassailable 12mins 45secs lead.
Smiling through the final couple of kilometres with 15 minutes’ lead at the end of a hard-fought race, Abraham flew on to cross the line as Ironman Asia-Pacific Champion in 8:10:56 with a stunning 2:56:50 marathon.
There was a wait at the finish for the Brit, who welcomed Van Vlerken across the line in 8:26:40, the Austrian putting in a normally race-winning 3:00:46 run. Gracious defending champion Steffen held onto third having faded to a 3:09:23 marathon, coming home in 8:31:22.
Badmann also slowed on the run, taking fourth in 8:34:37 while Gina Crawford ran up into fifth place – 8:37:23.
Top 10 Female Finishers
- Corinne Abraham (Great Britain) 8:10:56
- Yvonne Van Vlerken (Austria) 8:26:40
- Caroline Steffen (Switzerland) 8:31:22
- Natscha Badmann (Switzerland) 8:34:37
- Gina Crawford (New Zealand) 8:37:23
- Amanda Stevens (United States) 8:39:39
- Carrie Lester (Australia) 8:41:22
- Sarah Piampiano (United States) 8:44:52
- Britta Martin (New Zealand) 8:45:50
- Anna Ross (New Zealand) 8:49:32
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