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Defending champion Gina Crawford in action in 2012 CREDIT: Getty Images

Challenge Wanaka gears up for biggest race yet
Wednesday 9 January 2013, 3:58PM
By Challenge Wanaka


In less than two weeks Challenge Wanaka will host over 2,000 participants in the week-long triathlon festival that has attracted world champions, Olympians and a record 1,500 long course triathletes.
The highlight in the flagship Challenge Wanaka race on 19 January is the presence of four-times world champion, Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack, one of the sport’s great athletes with over 200 victories to his name and his eye on a new course record at his first New Zealand long distance race. Determined to stop him in his tracks is a strong men’s field that includes former Duathlon World Champion, Leon Griffin (AUS), Challenge Wanaka 2011 champion, Jamie Whyte (NZL) and four-times iron distance champion Bryan Rhodes (NZL).

The women’s race will see an exciting dual between New Zealand’s top two long course triathletes, Gina Crawford and Joanna Lawn. Crawford has won Challenge Wanaka four times and is going for a fifth, Lawn has won Ironman New Zealand seven time and has turned her sights to the tough, honest course of Wanaka for the first time. They are joined by Australian Kate Bevilaqua who has multiple long distance titles to her name, along with Kiwis Candice Hammond and Julia Grant, both of whom are regular podium finishers.

New Zealand Olympians Kate McIlroy and Nicky Samuels are also competing in the relay teams section, along with Youth Olympic gold medallist, Aaron Barclay.

Challenge Wanaka has become renowned as a bucket-list race for triathletes from all over the world with its unique location on the edge of the TeWahipounamu World Heritage Area and Mt Aspiring National Park, earning the reputation of the world’s most scenic long distance triathlon. Featuring a 3.8km swim in the crystal waters of Lake Wanaka, a 180km cycle through the foothills of the Southern Alps and a 42.2 off-road run, the course is as honest as it is spectacular.

Challenge Wanaka Triathlon Festival is the largest in New Zealand with over 2,000 athletes of all ages and abilities taking part during the week-long celebration of sport. The action starts on Sunday 13 January with the Puzzling World Junior Challenge Wanaka for children aged 6-15 followed by the Radio Wanaka Charity Fun Run/Walk on Monday evening. All proceeds will go to the Wanaka Land SAR. The Contact Tri Series comes to town on Friday 18 January featuring some of the country’s top sprint triathletes and then all eyes are on the flagship Challenge Wanaka event on Saturday 19 January, together with the Lake Wanaka Half, starting at 6.30am.

Challenge Wanaka is part of the global Challenge Family series that features 18 events worldwide in Germany, France, Spain, Denmark, Holland, Austria, UK, Italy, Canada, Thailand and Taiwan as well as New Zealand. For further information visit or

New Zealand’s largest triathlon festival featuring over 2,000 participants from juniors to sprint athletes to endurance triathletes running from 13-19 January in Lake Wanaka.

The flagship event, Challenge Wanaka, takes place on 21 January featuring 1,500 athletes from 20 nations and throughout New Zealand racing over the both the half and full iron distance.

Top contenders for the $80,000 prize money, New Zealand’s largest iron distance prize purse:
Chris McCormack (AUS) - Sydney - four times world champion, current ITU long course world champion
Jamie Whyte (NZL) – Auckland – 2011 Challenge Wanaka champion
Leon Griffin (AUS) - Auckland - former ITU Duathlon World Champion

Bryan Rhodes (NZL) – four times iron distance champion

Keegan Williams (NZL) - Hamilton - multiple podiums at Challenge Wanaka, Challenge Roth, Challenge Copenhagen and IM New Zealand

Gina Crawford (NZL) – Christchurch – ten times iron distance champion, New Zealand iron distance record holder, Challenge Wanaka defending champion, four-time winner of Challenge Wanaka
Joanna Lawn (NZL) - Auckland - ranked in top 10 of greatest iron distance triathletes of all time, seven time winner of Ironman New Zealand
Kate Bevilaqua (AUS) - multiple iron distance title holder

Candice Hammond (NZL) - Cambridge - former rower with breakthrough career win at Bintan Metaman (iron distance) in September this year

Julia Grant (NZL) - Christchurch - frequent top-five finisher including Challenge Barcelona and Challenge Wanaka INDEX