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Age groupers have Kona in their sights at Ironman 70.3 Xiamen

The race on the southeast coast of China is one of the few 70.3s that acts as a qualifier for the Ironman World Championships.

Ironman 70.3 Xiamen is one of the few half-distances races on the schedule where qualifying slots are available for the following year’s Ironman World Championships, and while that ups the quality of the age-group field, the pro field is also very strong for this weekend’s race.

Tim Reed at the 2017 Ironman World Championship

The complete list of qualifying events for the 2020 World Championship has yet to be released, but last year, four of the eight 70.3 races that have Kona spots on the line are located in China: Xiamen, Chongqing, Shanghai and Liuzhou. There will be a total of 30 spots for next year’s Kona race on the line when the athletes line up on Nov.10, along with 50 slots for the 2020 70.3 worlds in New Zealand.

Highlighting the lineup on the men’s side is 2016 Ironman 70.3 world champion Tim Reed, who is coming off a 12th-place finish in Kona in October. The 34-year-old Australian also had a win this year at 70.3 Coeur d’Alene in June, and arguably comes in as the favourite.

The other man in the field with a 70.3 victory under his belt this year is Portugal’s Filipe Azevedo, who won his second consecutive title at 70.3 Shanghai Chongming two weeks ago. The 26-year-old is strong everywhere, but poses the biggest threat to the field on the run as he’s consistently been running 1:14s or better.

Among the other prominent names who will be competing on the men’s side include defending champion Kevin Collington, 2017 winner Sam Betten, Australian Josh Amberger and 2012 Ironman world champion Pete Jacobs.

The lone Canadian pro racing will be Thornhill, Ont., native Frank Sorbara, who most recently won the Orillia Triathlon in August. Sorbara also has an eighth-place finish at 70.3 Peru in April and an 11th-place finish at 70.3 Gulf Coast on his resume in 2019.

The women’s pro field has less than half the number of athletes competing as the men (21 men and just nine women), but it should still yield a competitive race. Americans Kelsey Withrow and Lesley Smith arrive as arguable co-favourites after successful seasons.

Like Azevedo, Withrow won 70.3 Shanghai Chongming just a couple of weeks ago, and has four 70.3 titles to her name over the course of her career. This year she was also second at 70.3 Liuzhou in April and third at Ironman Canada in July.

Smith already has three runner-up finishes in 2019 and will be looking to make her way onto the top of the podium in Xiamen to close out her year. She was second at 70.3 Texas, 70.3 Boulder and Ironman Boulder, and also placed fourth at the Ironman North American Championships in Texas in April.