Time to speculate, pick, choose, predict, make a guess, look into the crystal ball of the future, draw names out of a hat, throw names against the wall and see who survives. I must make my list of top three men and women for tomorrow’s Ironman World Championship 2008. The talent is so deep, and the lead up indeed murky, that lifting three men and three women up above all others is going to be a nearly impossible.
This is the toughest. If I look at those racing, I keep trying to fit about 15 guys into three spots. But the top of the podium only holds three, so here we go. You ready?
1) Chris McCormack, Australia
2) Enekos Llanos, Spain
3) Torbjorn Sindballe, Denmark
You might wonder why there are a few others notables missing. The biggest is Norman Stadler, who could easily be the spoiler for the men. He’s won this race twice, yes, but my reason for leaving him out of the top three is simple. He’s been so distracted this week (and before that as well) with being a rock star, that he just does not seem to have the air of a champion who’s really ready. He’s acting the part quite well for sure. His sponsor secured his own private area out in front of the unofficial hub of Ironman week, which is a coffee shop called Lava Java. If you ever wanted to get a glimpse of Stadler, with predictable timing all it required was to do a drive by at around 9:30am and you would see him holding court with the whole entourage decked out in official lime green sponsor garb.
Another is Craig Alexander, second last year. He has what it takes to pull off victory without a doubt, but some question has been raised about some niggling injuries that have hampered the perfect preparation. Al-Sutan looks the best I have ever seen him, but then if he toes the line with some of the better runners at the start of the marathon, he’ll fall short.
1) Chrissie Wellington, Great Britain
2) Kate Major, Australia
3) Yvonne van Vlerken. Netherlands
Basically every woman other than Wellington is racing for second. Chrissie’s victory last year and her results this season have all the others bowing down in surrender. I put her at the top, but I am not as sold on her security as the sure bet. Some photos of her earlier this season showed an extremely thin athlete, which is a quality that may serve you well everywhere else, but not here in Kona. Too lean is a powder keg ready to blow here on the Big Island. To her credit, she’s "plumped up” a bit, so she may have reversed a big potential weakness.
But I still won’t cede the race to her quite yet. The spoiler could be Natasha, who is racing after a cone in the road took her out last year. It might also be Erika Csomor who broke the world record for the distance, but posted that time just a minute and change after Van Vlerken crossed in 8:45:48 at Roth. But no matter how you look at it a time faster than Paula Newby-Fraser’s long-standing world best counts for something.
It’s fun to predict. However, the reality is that if you look at the list of the elite, there are easily 50 men and 50 women who on the right day have a real valid shot at top three. It will be exciting. We can’t wait!
See you at the race…