While Jan Frodeno and Lionel Sanders will unfortunately not start at Ironman 70.3 Oceanside, plenty of top athletes remain. Ironman highlights what they believe to be the biggest favorites:
Jackson Laundry (CAN)
This young Ontario native had a breakthrough year in 2022, beginning his season with an epic victory in Oceanside last April. In the final mile of the race, he surged past two-time Olympic gold medalist Alistair Brownlee (GBR) and staved off fellow Canadian Lionel Sanders in a sprint finish. Laundry went on to notch solid results at a number of races through the season, capping it off with a second-place finish at the 2022 Trainual IRONMAN 70.3 Indian Wells-La Quinta triathlon in December. Laundry is likely eager to continue his forward trajectory with a fresh new year of racing.
Ben Kanute (USA)
An American favorite at the half-distance triathlon, Kanute has finished in the top 10 at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship on four occasions, most recently with a 2nd place at the 2022 IRONMAN 70.3 WC in STG: 2nd at Chattanooga in 2017, 4th at Port Elizabeth in South Africa in 2018, and 10th in Nice in 2019. He’s also won twice at IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside races, and knows what it takes to swim, bike, and run with the best down the final miles of The Strand.
Sam Long (USA)
“The Big Unit,” as he’s called, this Boulder, Colo. native was born as one of three premature triplets and told that he’d develop more slowly than his peers. At 6 feet 4 inches and remarkably successful at long-course triathlon, he’s continuing to prove that theory wrong. Last year, Long spent time racing in Europe in order to add to his already impressive resume. Watch for Long to be a force on the bike at this year’s Athletic Brewing IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside triathlon. He finished out the 2022 season with a win at IRONMAN 70.3 Indian Wells-La Quinta over Jackson Laundry.
Leo Bergere (FRA)
The 2022 World Triathlon Championship Series champion, and Olympian will be starting at his second ever IRONMAN 70.3 event. He raced his only IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon in 2022 at Lanzarote where he took the win over a challenging course and against a strong field. With his short course speed, fans are excited to see him mix it up at the front and see if he can challenge the veterans. Leo had been finalizing his preparation in Oceanside over the past couple of weeks in anticipation of the upcoming event.
Chelsea Sodaro (USA)
California elite runner Chelsea Sodaro took up triathlon late in life as an alternative to running when she became injured. It was an immediate fit, and Sodaro rose quickly to the top of her game, enjoying hard-won success at the half-distance. With only a single full-distance IRONMAN under her belt before taking on the inimitable VinFast IRONMAN World Championship in Hawai`i, Sodaro swam and biked with the best in the world and soared to victory on the heels of a truly elite-level marathon performance. Sodaro became the first American woman to win the IRONMAN World Championship triathlon since 1996 and only 18 months after giving birth to her daughter.
Holly Lawrence (GBR)
Another triplet in the mix, Lawrence was born and raised in the UK but has called California home since 2015. She comes to this race with boatloads of experience at the distance, including an IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship triathlon win in 2016, a win at IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside triathlon in 2017, and too many more wins and podiums to list. Lawrence has also struggled with injury and hasn’t seen much on top over the past year (despite a list of solid top-10’s); she has been quietly working her way back to top form and will be fun to watch her 2023 debut at a race she has shined at in the past.
Paula Findlay (CAN)
Another Olympian in the mix, Canadian Paula Findlay is always one to watch at this distance and is strong across all three disciplines. Findlay has wowed fans from across the world, right to her hometown backyard of Edmonton, Alberta. She and her boyfriend Eric Lagerstrom (also on the start line on the men’s side at this race) document their training and racing on the popular vlog That Triathlon Life, and fans will undoubtably be rooting for Findlay as they watch for follow-up success this year, after her second-place finish at the 2022 Intermountain Health IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship triathlon, presented by Utah Sports Commission in St. George, Utah last fall and season-capping victory at the Trainual IRONMAN 70.3 Indian Wells-La Quinta triathlon.
Kat Matthews (GBR)
A physiotherapist in the British Army, Matthews worked her way up the age-group ranks and turned pro in 2019 with very promising results. In her second year as a pro, Matthews won the 2020 Visit Panama City Beach IRONMAN Florida, and in 2021 she took the IRONMAN UK triathlon, along with a series of notable results in years. She was on a tear last year, including placing second to Daniela Ryf at the 2021 IRONMAN World Championship in St. George Utah in May of 2022, when she was struck by a car in Houston, Texas while training for the 2022 VinFast IRONMAN World Championship race. Matthews sustained life-threatening injuries and the long road to recovery will be celebrated this weekend, regardless of the outcome.
Tamara Jewett (CAN)
This Canadian has a run weapon that will be hard to match on race day. At the 2022 Intermountain Health IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship triathlon presented by Utah Sports Commission in St. George, Utah, her 1:16:04 was leagues ahead of the rest of the field, only barely touched by Emma Pallant-Browne’s 1:17:44. If Jewett has raised her swim-bike game, watch for her to be a real force on the half marathon.
For a full start list of professional athletes competing at the 2023 Athletic Brewing IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside triathlon, visit www.ironman.com/pro-athletes.
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