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Posted: December 16, 2009  : Add to Mixx! Subscribe to stories like this Share

Triathlon: Challenge Wanaka Triathlon Festival enjoys record numbers

LAKE WANAKA, New Zealand (December 16, 2009) -- With entries now closed for New Zealand's fastest growing long distance triathlon, a record 1,000 athletes from 24 nations have signed up to take on the gruelling Challenge Wanaka course at either the full 226km iron distance or the 113km Lake Wanaka Half.

The event attracts a number of the sport's top athletes, including current New Zealand iron distance record holders Gina Crawford and Richard Ussher. Both are fresh from recent victories, Crawford with her second successive win in Bussleton, Western Australia and Ussher in the Abu Dhabi Adventure Challenge.

Other elite athletes attending the race include defending champion Chris McDonald (AUS) as well as the current cycle course record holder, Justin Daerr (USA). Renowned Czech athlete, Petr Vabrousek is back for a fourth attempt at the title after a disqualification at the inaugural event in 2007 while top Danish iron distance champion, Lisbeth Kristensen will have her eye on the title following a disappointing race due to illness in Western Australia.

But the majority of the field is made of amateur athletes of all ages and abilities from throughout New Zealand and further afield looking to take on the sporting achievement of a lifetime. With numbers more than doubled from 2009 following the introduction of the Lake Wanaka Half, they will have more company out on course but that won't detract from the physical and mental challenges they face in triathlon's toughest discipline.

Challenge Wanaka race director, Victoria Murray-Orr, said she was delighted with the growth the event had seen.

"We've seen a marked increase in international athletes -- 50% of the Challenge Wanaka individual field and 25% overall are from overseas," she said. "Word is out this course is one to put on the must-do list. It's quickly become renowned for its spectacular scenery and tough, honest nature. The continued growth of the Challenge series around the world also has a positive effect as international awareness increases, securing an exciting future for Challenge Wanaka and the beneficial effects it has on the region."

The Challenge Wanaka Triathlon Festival takes place on 10 -16 January, kicking off with the Puzzling World Junior Challenge and featuring the Radio Wanaka Fun Run, Swim the Course, Contact Series sprint races culminating with the Lake Wanaka Half and flagship Challenge Wanaka race on 16 January. In total, over 1,500 athletes of all ages will compete during the week-long festival. Challenge Wanaka is part of the global Challenge series that currently features eight races in Germany, France, Denmark, Spain and Austria, as well as New Zealand.

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