Asia Pacific Championship of the Ironman Marathon comes to Melbourne at our own iconic St Kilda Beach!

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 By Shona Narayanan and Regan Stoneman

International television commentators said that this Melbourne Ironman was staged at one of the most memorable locations of the world circuit!

The event, sponsored by The Urban Hotel Group, opened proceedings at their St Kilda Hotel in Fitzroy Street on Thursday the 22nd of March with a book launch of famous Australian and three-time Ironman Champion Craig Alexander. All of the professional contingent of the marathon’s triathletes enjoyed the hospitality at The Urban Hotel over the four days, culminating in an awards presentation on the night of Monday March 25th.

Craig Alexander actually achieved third place in the Ironman, Melbourne 2013, Asia Pacific Championship, which has only sweetened the already monumental week that the triathlon star has already had. Welcoming the birth of his third child on Tuesday morning, Alexander was remarkably focused on his race – coming in merely a minute behind Belgian Mario Vanhenacker and three minutes after 2013’s Ironman Champion, Spain’s, Eneko Llanos crossed the finish line.

The event held on Sunday, 24th of March, featured a 1.9km single lap swim that had been altered to cater to windy conditions in Frankston, a 180 kilometer bike ride on the Eastlink Tollway and a 42.2 kilometer run along Port Philip Bay towards the finish line at the St Kilda Baths. Having sold out in a mere four minutes and fifty-seven seconds after going on sale, the race was seen as a true testament to Australia’s love of sport.

Announcing an additional 25 slots, which raises the total qualifying places in the 2013 Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, to 100, makes Ironman Asia Pacific Championship Melbourne one of just four Ironman events in the world on such a scale.

With Hotel Urban situated a mere 200 meters from finish line in St Kilda, Ricky Jeffs Group General Manager of Erdigroup, the parent company of the Urban Hotel Group said: “We are honoured to be the naming rights sponsor of the 2013 Urban Hotel Group Ironman Asia Pacific Championship. We have a long history of supporting the sport across many parts of Australia, but St Kilda and Melbourne is our home, and we are proud advocates of all that it has to offer. With 100 Kona spots on offer, the world’s best athletes and some enhancements to this year’s race, it is set to be an amazing event and I am counting down the days to what will be the greatest Ironman we have seen in the Asia Pacific region”.

Clocking the fastest men’s time in 2012 and the fastest time by an Australian at an Ironman race, Alexander was bested by Spaniard Eneko Llanos who walked away with the coveted cash prize of USD$125,000 and one of the qualifying slots in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii. He is fresh off his second place victory at Abu Dhabi International and has had successful rankings in Ironman Hawaii, Ironman Texas, Ironman Arizona and Ironman Lanzarote in recent years.

“Full credit to Eneko, I have no excuses, he was the strongest man today, he thoroughly deserved the win,” said a sporting Alexander after the race.

Coming in a mere two minutes behind Llanos, crowd favourite and 10-time Ironman veteran winner, Mario Vanhenacker made a strong comeback after pulling out in an ambulance last year at Kona. “I’m really happy, especially after last year in Kona, I thought for a long time in the race [that] I knew it would have to be someone special [who] had to come and get me. Like I said, I didn’t slow down until I was passed so I am really, really happy with this,” said the Belgian, about his ranking.

In the women’s race, Welsh, Corinne Abraham took first place after only two years of racing experience. Austrian, Yvonne van Vlerken took second place shortly after and record holder for second fastest Ironman time ever, Switzerland’s, Caroline Steffen came in third place.

Victorian Minister of Sport and Recreation, the Hon Hugh Delahunty, was at the finish line in St Kilda to congratulate winners Llanos and Abraham; “The hard work and dedication of these elite athletes is truly remarkable. The Victorian Government is very proud to be supporting this tremendous event which promotes our city and state across the world and delivers such inspiration to all those who view the almost superhuman feats of these men and women. I would also like to congratulate and thank the many volunteers who have worked so hard to support Ironman Melbourne, major events like this would not be possible without their efforts,” Minister Delahunty said.

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