The names on Ironman 70.3 Hawaii’s list of winners stand out, with three Ironman world champions collecting five of the nine titles.
That being said, the depth of quality competitors for the half-Ironman-distance event may be at all-time high Saturday.
Defending Ironman world champion Pete Jacobs will make his first appearance at the 10th edition of 70.3 Hawaii, which begins at 7 a.m. Saturday with a 1.2-mile swim at Hapuna Beach State Park.
The triathletes will then bike 56 miles, traveling north to Hawi on Queen Kaahumanu Highway before turning around and heading to the Fairmont Orchid Hawaii. A 13.1-mile run awaits on the Fairmont Orchid Grounds.
Jacobs is one of more than 1,900 athletes registered for the triathlon – race officials expect approximately 1,700 at the start line.
Making his fifth Ironman world championship appearance last October, the 31-year-old Australian claimed victory after placing second in 2011 and recording eighth-place finishes the previous two years.
However, Jacobs, battling various injuries, hasn’t competed since placing fourth at the Escape to Alcatraz – a 1.5-mile swim, an 18-mile bike ride and an 8-mile run – March 3 in San Francisco.
On Saturday, he is part of a 15-man professional field that includes Craig Alexander, one of triathlon’s the most decorated athletes.
The 40-year-old Australian has won three Ironman world championships, with the last coming in 2011, when he set a world championship course record of 8 hours, 3 minutes, 56 seconds and became the oldest Ironman champion.
In his only 70.3 Hawaii appearance in 2009, Alexander won the race in 4:02:52.
Another Australian, Luke Bell, will also challenge for this year’s title. Bell won the event in 2011 with a time of 3:58:14, nearly eclipsing the course record set by Chris McCormack in 2007 (3:57:18).
McCormack’s record did fall last year, when cycling star Lance Armstrong won with a blistering time of 3:50:55.
However, Armstrong hasn’t competed in triathlon since, and he will not race Saturday. Last June, the World Triathlon Corporation banned Armstrong from Ironman events shortly after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced its intent to file doping charges against Armstrong and strip him of his Tour de France titles.
Honolulu’s Tim Marr, who won 70.3 Hawaii when the event was an Olympic-distance triathlon in 2004, will also compete along with elite U.S. triathlete Jordan Rapp, who won the Aquadraat Sports Ironman U.S. Championship last year.
In the women’s competition, defending 70.3 Hawaii champion Linsey Corbin will not race because of a recent injury. She set the course record last year with a time of 4:25:13.
Two former 70.3 champions – Australia’s Belinda Granger and Kailua-Kona’s Bree Wee – are among the 10 professionals in the field.
The 43-year-old Granger won 70.3 Hawaii titles in 2009 and 2010 but did not compete in each of the past two years.
The 33-year-old Wee won her first half-Ironman-distance title at 70.3 Hawaii in 2011, finishing in 4:42:32. She bettered that time last year, placing fourth with a time of 4:32:45.
Canada’s Julia Grant finished runner-up to Corbin last year, clocking in at 4:30:17.
Other prominent local competitors include Kailua-Kona’s Penn Henderson, Tommy Vonach and Sam Corace.
At last year’s 70.3 Hawaii, Henderson topped the Big Island competitors with an 11th-overall finish (4:20:45), and Vonach was 14th (4:23:52).
Vonach, Corace and Henderson placed fourth, fifth and eighth, respectively, at Lavaman Waikoloa in April.
Kealakekua’s Rani Tanimoto, the third-place female at the 2012 Lavaman Waikoloa, is also in the field.
Also, Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi, who has made three Lavaman Waikoloa appearances, will race in his first 70.3 Hawaii.