THE POWER OF KONA

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Warm-up Editorial -

IAM NOT SURE if there’s an­other sport be­sides triathlon where one event can de­fine a per­son’s year. Sure, win­ning Wim­ble­don might do it in tennis, but if you’re an also-ran in ev­ery other ma­jor, your year won’t be con­sid­ered a big one in the tennis scene.

That all gets thrown out the win­dow, though, when it comes to the Iron­man World Championship. Dave Scott used to be renowned for pulling things to­gether, nail­ing Kona, and run­ning on that achieve­ment for the rest of the year. Af­ter win­ning in Kona last year, Pa­trick Lange didn’t ex­actly rip things up through the early part of his race year. “The whole year for me was quite a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence,” Lange said. “The race that counts the most is Kona. If you come good in Kona, no ques­tions will be asked.”

And he’s right. A few years ago, Jan Fro­deno was Ger­many’s Sportsper­son­al­ity of the Year. That was a huge deal in the soc­cer-mad, For­mula One-crazy coun­try. I wouldn’t be sur­prised if Lange’s win in Kona puts him in the ball­park for that award; not only did he de­fend his ti­tle, but he man­aged to break what many con­sider triathlon’s equiv­a­lent to the four-minute mile: a sub-eight-hour per­for­mance in Kona.

If the year was tough for Lange, last year’s third-place fin­isher in Kona, David McNamee, had it even tougher.

“I think I had a pretty aw­ful sea­son,” McNamee said at the post-race press con­fer­ence af­ter fin­ish­ing third for the se­cond year straight. “I don’t think peo­ple were ex­pect­ing much of me. Ul­ti­mately this is our world championship – there’s no point be­ing a hero in April and May. The drive and fo­cus for me all year is Hawaii and try­ing to beat Pa­trick.”

If you talk to Tim O’Don­nell about it all, a bad day in Kona can af­fect the fol­low­ing 12 months of your train­ing and rac­ing.

“Last year was a hard year for me, def­i­nitely,” O’Don­nell said of his 19th place fin­ish af­ter fin­ish­ing sixth the year be­fore. “This sport is very fickle, so I felt like I’d been for­got­ten a bit.”

A fourth-place fin­ish this year will put O’Don­nell back in the con­ver­sa­tion. That’s what Kona will do. As com­pet­i­tive as the World Triathlon Series (WTS) might be, my guess is that many of you couldn’t name the win­ners of this year’s Grand Fi­nal, let alone the top five. Even though the race is al­most nine hours long, mil­lions of peo­ple watch the race in Kona ev­ery year. Again, I would imag­ine that num­ber is much higher than for any sin­gle one of the WTS races. Ev­ery four years the Olympics might bang on that pop­u­lar­ity door, but there’s no other yearly race that draws the same amount of at­ten­tion.

While the women in the top five in Kona this year have all had pretty im­pres­sive years, An­gela Naeth’s eighth-place fin­ish was a huge break­through in a year that’s been plagued by Lyme dis­ease. That top-10 Kona fin­ish is cer­tainly go­ing to de­fine Naeth’s year, for sure.

It would be nice if our sport wasn’t so Kona­cen­tric and there was more at­ten­tion paid to some of the other stel­lar races on the cal­en­dar, but there’s no two ways about it – Kona de­fines our saport. Sure, there might have been other mul­ti­sport events be­fore Com­man­der John Collins and his wife Judy came up with the idea of the Iron­man, but for 40 years Com­man­der Collins’s mantra of “swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 and run 26.2, then brag for the rest of your life” con­tin­ues to de­fine our sport.

I’d also like to use a bit of my ed­i­to­rial space in this is­sue to say a mon­strous thank you to the pro­duc­tion team that’s re­spon­si­ble for get­ting this is­sue to­gether. In­spired by a Ger­man magazine that puts a 170-page is­sue to­gether the week af­ter Kona, I’ve been push­ing the en­ve­lope by adding some of our own Kona cov­er­age in our Novem­ber is­sue, some­thing most de­sign houses would balk at. I’m sure our art di­rec­tor War­ren Wheeler and de­signer Cristina Bol­zon are ready to kill me, but once again they’re awe­some work has al­lowed us to bring you some unique Kona cov­er­age in the is­sue. Our photo editor, Matt Stet­son, some­how man­ages to find all the great photos you’ll see in this is­sue to­gether, which is no easy feat. A huge thanks to Paul Phillips, who shot our cover for us in Kona just three days be­fore we went to print. I owe a big thanks to the en­tire Gripped Pub­lish­ing and Rose­an­der Main crew for in­dulging me in the crazy task of get­ting this Novem­ber is­sue to­gether ev­ery year.

I hope you en­joy it.

KEVIN MACKIN­NON EDITOR

John and Judy Collins at the Parade of Na­tions LEFT

Paul Phillips shoots An­gela Naeth for this is­sue’s cover

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