IRONMAN Malaysia’’s rising status as one of the world’’s bucket-list races has been given a further boost after attracting a bumper field of pro athletes to next month’’s race.

Some 59 pro athletes will be heading to the start line for this year’’s race, which includes the return of defending women’’s champion Diana Riesler.

The German athlete will have a point to prove after failing to finish at Kona earlier this month, but she is clearly enthused to return to the stunning Langkawi Island.

She made her IRONMAN debut in the 2008 edition of this race, winning her age group category, and the 31-year-old was elated to win the women’’s pro race –– and come in fifth overall –– last year, when IRONMAN Malaysia returned to the event schedule following a five-year hiatus.  

“Crossing the finish line, I knew that this was not the last time that I raced one of my favourite IRONMAN races and that I wanted to come back and race here again,” said Riesler.

“IRONMAN Malaysia is one of the most stunning and one of the toughest events at the same time. It is famous for its heat and humidity. You race the course, not the competition. It is a unique experience. For me, it is a must-do IRONMAN.”

Also entered in the women’’s race is IRONMAN legend and six-time former world champion Natascha Badmann of Switzerland, Australia’’s Sarah Crowley, a recent winner of the IRONMAN 70.3 Gurye in Korea, and Japan’’s Keiko Tanaka, who finished runner-up in the 2014 edition of IRONMAN Malaysia. 

Leading the men’’s pro contenders is 2014 IRONMAN Lanzarote champion Romain Guillaume. The 30-year-old French athlete finished a respectable 19th in Kona and will be looking for a good show in Langkawi.  Fredrik Croneborg , last year’’s runner-up in IRONMAN Malaysia, is back hoping to go better this year.

The Swede recently competed at the IRONMAN World Championship, placing 24th in the men’’s pro race and he too could also threaten the podium.  This year’’s course has been altered, with the swim moved to the other side of the island to start at the splendid Danna Hotel on the stunning beach resort of Pantai Kok.

The highly acclaimed bike course remains unchanged, although the second transition has moved to a unique air-conditioned indoor venue, the Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre (MIEC), near the airport which leads to a multi-lap course that bypasses Kuah Town, and will lead runners past Cenang beach without the transport challenges posed by a built-up area.

New Zealand IRONMAN icon Cameron Brown, the event ambassador, will also be in action at IRONMAN Malaysia, competing in the swim leg as part of a Celebrity team event. The veteran Kiwi and 11-time IRONMAN New Zealand champion also praised the changes made to the course.

“I enjoyed IRONMAN Malaysia for sure last year and Langkawi is a fantastic spot,” Brown added.

“But I love the proposed changes with a much improved swim venue at a beach resort and far fewer high traffic areas. The only problem I see is that, it might be tempting to stay rather longer than you should at T2 in that air-conditioned hall.”

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