John Levison previews IRONMAN South Africa 2022, which tops off a terrific weekend of elite racing. Here is all you need to know ahead of time.
The first weekend in April really sees the professional triathlon racing season step up a notch. We’ve already looked ahead to IRONMAN 70.3 Oceanside (Saturday) and Challenge Salou (Sunday) – but the big money this weekend will be earned at ISUZU IRONMAN South Africa, the IRONMAN African Championship.
In even better news – as with Oceanside and Salou – you can also watch it all happen live at Kings Beach, Nelson Mandela Bay, Port Elizabeth.
Start time and how to watch live
The IRONMAN African Championship will take place on Sunday April 3, 2022.
Racing will start at 0630 local time (PRO Men), with the PRO Women five minutes later. That corresponds to 0530/0535 in the UK, 0630/0635 CET and 0030/0035 Eastern time.
South Africa will be the first of 14 full-distance events from IRONMAN in 2022 broadcast live through their IRONMAN Now Facebook page and also available via Facebook Watch on smart TV’s. This weekend’s race will be hosted by Matt Lieto, with further input and insight from Laura Siddall and Emma Pallant-Browne.
As always, the IRONMAN Tracker app on mobile devices is your essential addition if you want to check out the race data as it happens, alongside the broadcast and commentary.
Top-ranked athlete based on PTO Rankings, and the clear favourite in the men’s race, has to be Joe Skipper (GBR). Full of confidence and chat – which he invariably backs up on the course – Skipper has made winning iron-distance races an annual event since collecting the ETU Long Distance Championship title at Almere in 2017.
UK (2018), Florida (2019), New Zealand (2020), UK and Chattanooga (2021) have followed since – with just as many top-tier full-distance podium finishes to add into the mix too. Joe is a seasoned iron-distance racer who excels over the distance.
As one of the potential favourites for World Championship success in St George, he is one of the few athletes racing another long-distance race just five weeks prior. It wouldn’t work for many, but history indicates that it is a consistently strong approach for Joe. Having the belief in following your own path is key for confidence – the proof of course will be in the pudding as to whether it works.
He’ll be facing previous winners in the form of Kyle Buckingham (2018) and Nils Frommhold (2014).
Jesper Svensson (SWE) was very impressive when second at the World Triathlon LD Champs in Almere last year. He is one of the top swimmers in the sport and will likely be among those setting the early pace, alongside full-distance debutant Collin Chartier, who represented Team USA last year the Collins Cup, and Antony Costes (FRA).
Joe will certainly have some chasing to do, but will no doubt start the race feeling that he should and will win. I back him do do just that, and become only the second British male to win the race since Stephen Bayliss in 2008.
Unlike the men, British women have had a long history of success at this race. Bella Bayliss (2008), Chrissie Wellington (2011), Jodie Cunnama (2015), Lucy Charles-Barclay (2018/2019) and Ruth Astle (2021) have all taken the title at Nelson Mandela Bay.
If there is to be another name added to that list, then it will be Susie Cheetham. Cheetham is no stranger to the event, finishing 3rd/2nd/3rd/2nd over four consecutive years, 2015 to 2018 inclusive. Susie and husband / coach Rob had their first son in late 2020, and so this will actually be her first full-distance start since late 2019 – injury also playing its part along the way.
“I love IRONMAN South Africa and there’s something about it that gives me an extra gear each time.
“I can’t thank my sponsors enough for sticking by this mum who has done very little racing in the last two years. But here’s to putting that right. Let’s do this!”
Another Mum on the comeback trail is Daniela Bleymehl (GER). She has three IRONMAN wins on her record, along with a memorable victory over Lucy Charles-Barclay at Challenge Roth 2018. If it was a ‘show us your medals’ competition, then Cheetham and Bleymehl would clearly lead the betting odds – we look forward to seeing how both perform on Sunday.
Given those comeback uncertainties for both however, perhaps the slight race favourite tag would go to Sarissa de Vries (NED), based upon her success at the World Triathlon LD Champs in Almere last year.
It’s far from an odds-on bet however, as Emma Bilham (SUI) has plenty of success on her CV (winning IRONMAN Ireland, Alpe d’Huez, Cannes, and more). The rolling terrain, likely winds and what I suspect will be lots of individual racing rather than group dynamics, would seemingly play to her strengths.
It’s always worth keeping an eye on the progress of Germany’s Kristin Liepold during the marathon too. Typically way off the pace in the swim, three-hour (or faster) IRONMAN marathons are a consistent feature of her racing record. If those ahead are fading badly, Liepold does have the potential to run herself into podium contention from seemingly nowhere.
Prize Money: What’s on the line?
With Regional Championship status, IRONMAN South Africa will have the biggest prize purse of this upcoming racing weekend.
The total on offer – $150,000 – will see the race winners collecting $25,000 each.
In addition to money, there will be a total of six qualifying slots (three MPRO / three FPRO) for the 2022 IRONMAN World Championship in Hawaii.
The total funds will be paid 10-deep, as follows:
Of course, thanks to the formation of the Professional Triathletes Organisation, financial rewards from performance are not solely from on-the-day performances.
The PTO World Rankings will see a total of $2million awarded at the end of 2022, based up on the final standings in those points tables. The rewards there can be substantial, with a move up or down the rankings system potentially earning you more than any individual event.