Braden Currie, Meredith Kessler repeat wins Kellogg’s IRONMAN Taupo 70.3




Braden Currie and Meredith Kessler repeated their winning feats from 12 months ago to mount successful title defences in a pair of thrilling races at the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo.


In the men’s race, a scintillating run enabled Currie, who sat fifth at the end of the bike leg, to clinch an eye-catching 33-second victory from fellow Kiwi Mike Phillips in a hard-fought tussle.


Meanwhile, in the women’s race, American Meredith Kessler, who has snared five straight IRONMAN New Zealand titles here in Taupo, clung on to claim a dramatic victory by just eight seconds from the fast-charging Brit Laura Siddall in a thrilling duel which went down to the wire. 


Wanaka-based multisport star Currie, said of his win: “I just had to do what I could do on the bike and know that if I could remain within striking distance on the run then I would have a chance.


Men’s winner Braden Currie enjoy his victories at the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN New Zealand in Taupo today.

Credit: Darryl Carey


“I put an effort in to put 200m on Mike (Phillips) and I thought I was running well and he would be happy to sit there but he wasn’t and it was a bit surprise to see him run up beside me. I took my time and then put down the hammer 5km out and knew I had to hang on.”


Kessler was elated to secure yet another victory in the Californian’s “second home” here in Taupo.


“Of my seven wins here in Taupo, that was by far the hardest. Laura was so close. Another 100m I think she could have beaten me.


Women’s winner Meredith Kessler 

“I had an IRONMAN three weeks ago and have tried to recover as best I can but that was tough.


“But I am thrilled to win here. And now I will recover and prepare to return here in March for the Kellogg’s IRONMAN New Zealand and attempt a six-peat which will be no easy task.”


With cool conditions and a stunning glass lake greeting the athletes at the start, it was Currie who established early control of the race by climbing out of the Lake Taupo waters with fellow Kiwi Mark Bowstead.


However it was Bowstead – an outstanding cyclist – who assumed the advantage on the 90km bike to open up a 1:35 lead from a three-strong group containing Phillips, American Drew Scott and Australian Lachlan Kerin. Currie had dropped back to fifth overall some 3:12 down.


However, Currie, a gifted multisport athlete and reigning XTERRA Asia Pacific champion and a three-time winner of the Coast to Coast, is an outstanding runner and refused to panic.


By quarter distance on the run he had hauled himself up to third within 38 seconds of the leader, Phillips, and after hitting the front just before halfway he strode out to victory in 3:52:44 from Christchurch-based Phillips.


In the battle for the final podium spot, American Drew Scott, who held third for much of the run faded in the latter stages, which allowed Australia’s former Olympic rower Todd Skipworth to earn a place on the podium in 3:56:56.


In the women’s pro race, Kessler emerged from the water with her nose ahead of swim specialist Rebecca Clarke of New Zealand. Then on the bike, the American opened up a lead before she was caught at the bike turn in Reporoa by the in-form Kiwi Amelia Watkinson. However Kessler managed to push to a 1:47 lead off the 90km bike.


Kessler appeared set for a comfortable win as she held a lead a little of three minutes plus at the halfway point. However, in a dramatic conclusion, Siddall, who placed third in the 2015 edition and fourth at IRONMAN New Zealand earlier this year, came with a powerful late burst in the final 5km to come within just eight seconds of a relieved Kessler, who stopped the clock in 4:22:35.


Watkinson, the second-place finisher 12 months ago, had to settle for third today in 4:28:24. 


Results Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IRONMAN 70.3 Taupo:


Elite men: Braden Currie (NZL) 3:52:44, 1; Mike Phillips (NZL) 3:53:17, 2; Todd Skipworth (AUS) 3:56:56, 3; Eddie Rawles (NZL) 3:57:50, 4; Drew Scott (USA) 3:58:09, 5; Lachlan Kerin (AUS) 3:59:40, 6; Dougal Allan (NZL) 3:59:53, 7; Cameron Brown (NZL) 4:03:14, 8; Paul Ambrose (AUS) 4:04:47, 9; Simon Cochrane (NZL) 4:06:21, 10.


Elite women: Meredith Kessler (USA) 4:22:35, 1; Laura Siddall (GBR) 4:22:43, 2; Amelia Watkinson(NZL) 4:28:24, 3; Rebecca Elliott (NZL) 4:37:57, 4; Laura Wood (NZL)  4:45:05, 5; Tamsyn Hayes (NZL) 4:45:11, 6; Hannah Lawrence (NZL) 4:45:19, 7; Pip Meo (NZL) 4:52:03, 8; Elaine Brent (NZL) 4:53:20, 9; Melanie McQuaid (CAN)  4:56:39, 10.