Reigning champions Jack Moody (NZL) and Grace Thek (AUS) are set to defend their titles at the highly anticipated Challenge Wanaka, showcasing an impressive lineup for the pro race on Saturday 17 February.
Since turning professional in 2018, Grace Thek from Australia has achieved remarkable success, podiuming in 20 out of 36 middle-distance races. In 2023, she secured three victories, including Challenge Wanaka, and ranked 28th in the Professional Triathletes Organization (PTO) standings.
Jack Moody, the homegrown talent from New Zealand, turned professional in 2018 and recently clinched 2nd place at the Taupo 70.3, earning a spot at the upcoming Worlds in Taupo. Moody is excited to return to Challenge Wanaka, and fans can’t wait to witness his performance.
The women’s field promises a formidable lineup also including current New Zealand Ironman Champion, Els Visser from the Netherlands, local legend Rebecca (Bec) Clarke, and British athlete Laura Siddall. Els Visser’s remarkable journey, surviving a shipwreck in 2014 and subsequently excelling in Ironman competitions, adds a unique narrative to the competition.
Visser had an incredible year in 2023, finishing second at Challenge Wanaka, third place at Challenge London, becoming the European Champion Long Distance at Challenge Almere-Amsterdam, and taking the win at Challenge Canberra. She also finished second in the Challenge Family World Bonus 2023.
Bec Clarke is looking for the top spot, having recently finished 2nd and 3rd at the event. Bec is seeking redemption after a wrong turn last year. Her 2023 highlights include a win at Sunshine Coast 70.3 and podium finishes at the Ironman World Champs, Taupo Ironman, and Challenge Salou.
Laura Siddall is fresh off a win at the gruelling Patagonman where she not only won the women’s race but was second overall.
Other strong contenders in the women’s field include Laura Wood, Sarah Thomas, Fiona Gallagher, Aleisha Wesley, Kathryn Krosch, Kiri Atkin and Hannah Knighton, promising an exciting battle for the title.
In the men’s field, defending champ Jack Moody leads a strong lineup of homegrown athletes, including Mike Phillips and Kyle Smith, and features up and coming international and New Zealand athletes Colin Szuch, Nick Thompson, Tom Somerville, Fraser Walsh, Benjamin Zorgnottu and Brett Clifford.
Jane Sharman, Event Director for the Integrity Homes Challenge Wanaka Festival of Triathlon, expresses excitement about the competitive field, stating, “We’re thrilled to have an extremely competitive field this year with dynamic upcoming talent eager to test themselves on our unique terrain.”
The Integrity Homes Challenge Wanaka Festival of Triathlon offers a diverse program, including the Bay to Bay Swim event, Aquabike, Cross Tri events, and youth events from 15-17 February. The scenic course, set against the backdrop of New Zealand’s Southern Alps, challenges athletes with hills on both the bike and run courses.