Nick Thompson & Rebecca Clarke Claim Maiden 70.3 Sunshine Coast titles

Monday 11 September 2023

Australia’s Nick Thompson and New Zealand’s Rebecca Clarke have today added their names to the list of winners of the Qatar Airways IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine in the event’s 10th edition.
 
Nick Thompson, from Perth, secured his maiden IRONMAN 70.3 title by an impressive margin of over a minute, completing the 1.9km swim, 90km ride, and 21.1km run in 3:40:02.
 
“I'm lost for words. I think in the last few years, I've always wanted to come here, get out of WA, and make a step and to come here and have a really enjoyable day and have a good race and manage to win. I wouldn't have really dreamed about this,” said Thompson.
 
“It's my fifth race. I've had good parts and bad parts and it doesn't always come together, but when it does, it's just really rewarding. Regardless of the result, I'm just really happy and I guess excited for going back home to Perth, seeing friends and family. I've only been home for a week the last four months.”
 
Former IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast champion Nicholas Free took out second place in 3:41:09, with Mitch Kibby overtaking Steve McKenna in the last two kilometres to capture third place.
 
“Swim, I was at the back of the group, I think I got dumped by a wave, I tried to body surf a wave, did a little barrel roll and got my bearings and came out of the water and we're all there and then up the really tough part of the bike course, Kurt (McDonald), Steve, Mitch, all pushed the pace, and I was just hanging on then Nic and Tim (Van Berkel) joined and we were together the first lap,” said Thompson.
 
Thompson put together a mature performance on the run as he held off Free, who at one point closed the gap to 29 seconds, before extending his lead out over the final few kilometres to over a minute.
 
“First lap on the run with them and I was like, okay, just take it out. I tried to run what I know I can, and I felt good the second lap and I just gave it everything. I can't believe it. It paid off. I'm lost for words.

Thompson is in his debut season as a professional triathlete and says the transition has been tough, but days like these make the effort worthwhile.
 
“I guess I took a bit of a punt the last few months. It's always been at the back of my mind the last few years to give it a go and the last few months weren't easy, I'm sure anyone trying to make it in the sport will tell you it's not always like the sunshine and rainbows you see on Instagram and social media. But like I said, when it all comes together, it's just so rewarding,” said Thompson. “I guess this is the feeling we chase. It might not happen every day, but the days where it does happen, it reminds you why it's worth it and why we try to be there.”
 
New Zealand’s Rebecca Clarke also claimed her first-ever IRONMAN 70.3 title by dominating in Mooloolaba having pretty much led for the entire race. The Kiwi finished in 4:13:43, over three minutes ahead of Radka Kahlefeldt in second and Sophie Perry in third.
 
“It feels really good. I think it's still sinking in because I didn't really believe, I had some belief that if I had a good day, I could win, but until you're going through it and crossing that line, yeah, it's hard to believe,” said Clarke. “Officially on the IRONMAN 70.3 circuit, it's my first win. I've had quite a few seconds and thirds so yeah, it's a sweet to get first.”
 
“I always knew it was going to start well for me with a good swim and had a bit of company with Chloe Hartnett and the guys, I was catching a few guys, starting only a minute apart. I think I caught quite a lot of the guys. But I just love it, I love an ocean to swim. It was a beautiful morning,” she said.
 
“The bike played out how I wanted it to. I knew Chloe was a strong swim-biker and if I can work with her, I think we were both determined to put some time into the other girls. Even though it's a rather flat course, I think it was harder today, there was quite a strong headwind on the way back, so we kind of flew out. I think I just was very controlled today in terms of just using the tailwind to have gas for the headwind.”
 
“We first got onto the run and knew we had a gap to some fast runners, but I think I was running scared a lot of the time, but I felt actually really great, best I’ve felt for a while on the run.
 
“The last few kilometres it was really hurting. I was just like, think of getting to that finish line and just enjoying going along the carpet. It made me think of my mum, who I lost five years ago from yesterday. It's a little of a tribute to her, it's like, this one's for you, mum. It's been quite a journey from when we first started triathlon and it was a dream to win one,” said Clarke.

TOP FIVE MEN
1 – Nick Thompson (Australia) – 3:40:02
2 – Nicholas Free (Australia) – 3:41:09
3 – Mitch Kibby (Australia) – 3:42:29
4 – Steve McKenna (Australia) – 3:43:23
5 – Kieran Storch (Australia) – 3:35:44
 
TOP FIVE WOMEN
1 – Rebecca Clarke (New Zealand) – 4:13:43
2 – Radka Kahlefeldt (Australia) – 4:16:53
3 – Sophie Perry (Australia) – 4:17:27
4 – Penny Slater (Australia) – 4:18:16
5 – Kylie Simpson (Australia) – 4:20:59

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