Past Champions and newcomers to battle for the 40th anniversary IRONMAN New Zealand Men’s title

Familiar foes and fresh faces are set to battle it out for the ANZCO Foods IRONMAN New Zealand professional men’s title on Saturday 2 March as the iconic triathlon celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Kiwis Mike Phillips and Braden Currie, both two-time IRONMAN New Zealand champions, will go head-to-head for the win once again, but will face strong competition from Australia’s Steve McKenna, Americans Justin Metzler and Colin Szuch, and Dutchman Niek Heldoorn.

Phillips claimed victory in 2023 and is aiming to become the first athlete since 2016 to defend their IRONMAN New Zealand title.

“I don’t feel any added pressure as the reigning champion, it is always cool to wear the number one bib,” said Phillips. “It has been a number of years now since someone has been able to win the title back-to-back, so doing so in front of a home crowd would be super special.”

The men’s field has a distinctively international feel to it this year, with professionals from eight countries from around the world competing in Taupō this year.

“It’s always great to have some new faces on the start line in Taupō. I am not familiar with some of them, but I am sure they add to the race and make it that much more exciting,” he said. “With the international athletes bringing different strengths and weaknesses to the race I think the dynamic will be a lot more unpredictable. This will hopefully result in an exciting race and make for great spectating.”

Braden Currie is gearing up for one of the biggest years of racing to date, targeting the inaugural IRONMAN Pro Series – with a USD $1.7 million bonus pool allocated at the end of the Series – and provided he qualifies, another shot at the VinFast IRONMAN World Championship title, held in Kona, Hawai`i for male athletes in 2024.

While IRONMAN New Zealand isn’t one of the races on the Pro Series calendar, Currie said the opportunity to start the year at one of his favourite events was too good to turn down.

“I couldn’t say no to racing IRONMAN New Zealand,” said Currie. “It’s probably stupid and I should’ve said no, it’s hard with the whole IRONMAN Pro Series and IRONMAN New Zealand not included in the point system, which means that I’m probably going to be racing four, maybe even five IRONMANs this year, which is asking a lot of me, but I just couldn’t say no at the same time. New Zealand is our home and our home race, and it’s always been the race that got me hooked on IRONMAN in the first place and one that I will continue to keep coming back to for as long as I race professionally.”

Currie finished second to Mike Phillips at last year’s IRONMAN New Zealand, but like Phillips is a two-time winner of the event – his titles achieved in 2021 and 2017.

“Winning the title again is one of my goals, but the main goal is to get an IRONMAN World Championship Kona slot, to be honest. It’s definitely early in the season but things have been going really well, so a Kona slot would be nice to tick off this early in the year and winning would be the cherry on top,” he said.

“Build-up has been going pretty well and it’s good to see a strong international contingency of athletes on the start line for IRONMAN New Zealand. It’s the 40th anniversary, so should be a really good race and to be honest, lots of unknowns in there. I haven’t done a lot of research yet, but a few names that I hadn’t heard of before, so that always makes it exciting.

“I think a couple of athletes in there will definitely change the dynamics a bit. I think still not a whole lot changes from my race plan, strong swim, strong ride and hope for a really good run. All going well I’ll just stick to my plan and see what they do,” said Currie.

While many people will be excited to see the Kiwi duo reignite their competitive rivalry, Australia’s Steve McKenna will be hoping he can ruin the locals’ party on his IRONMAN New Zealand debut.

In 2023, McKenna secured his maiden IRONMAN title in Port Macquarie followed by a second-place finish at the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Cairns – runner up to Currie – along with two IRONMAN 70.3 podium finishes. 

Also a strong contender is Justin Metzler, an IRONMAN 70.3 champion and serial podium finisher – though he is yet to secure an elusive IRONMAN win. The American will also make his IRONMAN New Zealand debut and will be hoping he can leave his mark on the famous race.

At just 25 years old, Niek Heldoorn is a rising star of the sport, showcasing his talent on the global stage when, as the youngest professional in the field, he finished 15th at the 2023 VinFast IRONMAN World Championship held in Nice, France. He qualified for that race by finishing second at IRONMAN Lanzarote earlier in the year.

IRONMAN New Zealand sees athletes take on a 3.8km swim starting and finishing on the shores of Lake Taupō, a 180km ride taking in the rural landscape surrounding Taupō, and a 42.2km run along the lakefront lined with supporters.

2024 ANZCO Foods IRONMAN New Zealand – Men’s Professional Start List

1 – Mike Phillips (New Zealand)

2 – Braden Currie (New Zealand)

3 – Steve McKenna (Australia)

4 – Justin Metzler (United States)

5 – Colin Szuch (United States)

6 – Matt Kerr (New Zealand)

7 – Matt Lewis (Australia)

8 – Albert Askengren (Sweden)

9 – Michael Boult (Australia)

10 – Simon Cochrane (New Zealand)

12 – Ben Hamilton (New Zealand)

14 – Scott Harpham (New Zealand)

15 – Levi Hauwert (Australia)

16 – James Hayes (Australia)

17 – Niek Heldoorn (Netherlands)

18 – Jesper Nybo Riis (Denmark)

19 – Domenico Passuello (Italy)

20 – Mark Radziejewski (Australia)

21 – Mike Tong (New Zealand)

22 – Eneko Elosegui (Spain)

For more information and to enter the 2024 ANZCO Foods IRONMAN New Zealand visit: https://www.ironman.com/im-new-zealand

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