Triath­lete of the Year

Lionel San­ders

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Front Page -

Talk about an up and down sea­son. Head­ing into the Iron­man 70.3 World Cham­pi­onship in Mooloolaba, Aus­tralia, triathlon fans were quick to call out Lionel San­ders as one of the race favourites.

It made sense. All year long he’d been do­ing noth­ing but win Iron­man 70.3 events. In Jan­uary he won the Panama 70.3 race. He won in Ocean­side (Cal­i­for­nia) and Texas in April. In May he took the Iron­man 70.3 North Amer­i­can Pro Cham­pi­onship in St. Ge­orge, Utah, over two-time 70.3 world cham­pion Se­bas­tian Kienle. In June he won in Mont-trem­blant.

He was even able to take on the Ger­man jug­ger­naut in style at the Iron­man 70.3 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship in Wies­baden, where he fin­ished sec­ond. It all seemed to bode well for a big day down un­der.

It’s one thing to win races with smaller pro fields, but when you put 30 or 40 of the world’s best into a race, things be­come very dif­fer­ent. San­ders’s typ­i­cally weak swim in Mooloolaba left him well be­hind the lead group and, de­spite his nor­mally strong bike, San­ders was never able to get near the front of the race. Fiercely dis­ap­pointed with his ninth- place fin­ish, San­ders con­tem­plated skip­ping the Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship in Kona.

He didn’t, but had an­other dis­ap­point­ing day, fin­ish­ing 29th.

Things started to look up, though, at the Is­land House Triathlon in the Ba­hamas. San­ders took on some of the speed­i­est in the sport and fin­ished an ad­mirable 10th. Then came the mag­i­cal day in Ari­zona.

San­ders had one of the best swims of his life, com­ing out of the wa­ter in 53:45 and in 16th place in the pro divi­sion. He fol­lowed that swim up with a 4: 04:38 bike split and a 2:42:31 marathon, enough to set a new Iron­man best time of 7:44:29, break­ing Marino Van­hoe­nacker’s record set in Aus­tria in 2011 by al­most 90 sec­onds.

San­ders says he’s go­ing to take a break from Kona next year to re­ally fo­cus on his swim and truly be pre­pared for cham­pi­onship rac­ing. If he can con­tinue to im­prove his swim, he’ll cer­tainly be in a po­si­tion to do just that. De­spite a tough time at the two world cham­pi­onship events, all the other im­pres­sive achieve­ments make it a no-brainer – Lionel San­ders is our male triath­lete of the year.– KM

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