Sebastian Kienle will start his two-year farewell tour in Port Elizabeth, South Africa this weekend as he takes on a tough field a the Ironman African Championship. The race will be covered on Ironman’s FaceBook Watch page starting at 11:20 PM EST on Saturday November 20 (6:20 local time on Sunday November 21).
You can see the full pro list for the race here.
As a regional championship the race will offer a US$100,000 prize purse along with two pro men’s and women’s spots (four in total) for the 2022 Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii next October.
Will Kienle’s Achilles hold out?
The big question in the men’s race is whether or not Kienle’s Achilles tendon, which has plagued him for much of the year, has healed enough for him to truly be competitive this weekend. As one of the most popular pros in Ironman racing, fans will no-doubt be keen to see the German world champion (2014 Ironman world champion, 2012 and 2013 Ironman 70.3 world champion) return to his winning form. He certainly seems to be in good spirits heading into the race, based on his social media posts.
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Even if he’s in top form Kienle will be facing a tough challenge to take the title on the weekend. Local hero Kyle Buckingham, who took the race in 2018, will wear race number one and will no-doubt have lots of support as he looks for another win. Another South African, Bradley Weiss, is looking for a tough double over the next few weeks – he’ll race in Port Elizabeth and then look to defend the Xterra World Championship a few weeks later.
It’s always hard to figure out exactly who will be racing at Ironman events as many pros hedge their bets by entering multiple events around the same time. A few of the likely contenders this weekend, though, include Kienle’s countryman Nils Frommhold, who was second at Challenge Roth earlier this year, Ironman Lake Placid champ Rasmus Svenningsson, and France’s Sam Laidlow (who was born in Great Britain and took a close second to Joe Skipper at Ironman UK earlier this year). Other podium contenders include Germany’s Maurice Claval adn The Netherlands’ Evert Scheltinga, who is fresh off a brilliant 7:49 performance at the World Long Distance Championship in Almere.
It’s hard to imagine that Imogen Simmonds, who had a tough day at Ironman Florida a couple of weeks ago, will be on hand in the women’s race, which leaves the pro women’s race quite wide open. American super-swimmer Lauren Brandon will look for another wire-to-wire win if she can, while South Africa’s Annah Watkinson would dearly love to thrill the local crowd with a home-country win.
If Ruth Astle has recovered well enough from her recent win in Mallorca, she will certainly be one of the pre-race women’s favourites, too. Another woman to keep an eye on is France’s Manon Genet.