Candice Warner was the golden girl of Ironwoman at a time when the iconic Australian surf life saving series had a resurgence in popularity, making her a household name.
Having since retired from the sport to start a family with her Australian cricket star husband David Warner, she is returning to TV screens this summer as Nine brings the Nutri-Grain IronMan and IronWoman series back into your living room.
And what you’ll see will blow you mind, according to Warner, who will front the broadcast and introduce surf-loving Aussies to a new cast of stars.
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Warner says that in the years since she walked away from the Iron Series, the professionalism of the athletes has gone to another level, with the competitors fitter, faster and more powerful.
Those athletes will descend on North Bondi starting today, and across the rest of the weekend, for the opening three rounds of the 2022 Ironman and Ironwoman series.
With a new format playing out each day, Warner says there will be something for everyone to enjoy.
“It’s going to be really exciting and every day is going to be different,” she told Wide World of Sports.
Tune in to the Nutri-Grain IronMan and IronWoman series live on Nine Go and Nine Now from 12pm today, 11am Saturday and 12pm Sunday!
Warner highlighted three competitors she believes will have a stranglehold over the Ironman events including reigning champion Alastair Day, NSW Iron champion Jackson Borg and 2019/20 winner Kendrick Louis.
“Ali (Alastair) Day, the defending champion, won six out of six races last year. A feat that no one has ever been able to do,” she said.
“He’ll be backing up, he won the Coolangatta Gold (surf life saving event) a few months ago, so we know he’s in good form.
“The first race is endurance so he is going to be hard to beat, but then you’ve got Newport’s Jackson Borg who is also very good over the endurance distance and has proved himself this season.
“Kendrick Louis will be competing for the first time after missing out last year due to injury. He will be keen to stamp his mark into the series early and I think he is going to really shake things up.”
In the Ironwoman series, previous champion Georgia Miller has been sidelined with heart issues, opening the door for several new competitors, including local rookee Lily Finati.
“Debutante Lily Finati is going to be competing for the very first time. She is going to be competing at her home beach,” Warner said.
“She knows the water, she knows the conditions better than anyone else.
“She is definitely going to be one to watch, not just this week, but for the future.”
Warner predicts back-to-back champion Lana Rogers and rival Lizzie Welborn will go toe-to-toe throughout the series.
“She (Welborn) is looking incredibly fit and I think she has won almost everything that she has been in this season,” Warner said
“She has not won the series before, but I think this year she is going to give it a real good crack.”
Speaking to Wide World of Sports, Welborn said every woman taking to the start line would have the same objective of winning.
“There are so many different race plans because we have got three races over three days and each format requires a different tactic so there is so much to think about,” she said.
“But I think everyone has got the same plan and that is to put their best foot forward and give it their best.”
As Australia’s youngest ever professional Ironwoman, Warner has respect for how the increased professionalism of the athletes has progressed the sport since her debut in 2008.
“The athletes are extremely dedicated, they would train up to five hours a day. They wake up early, a lot of them have either just finished school or are at university getting a degree, or they work in their spare time,” Warner said.
“I think what’s changed (since being out of the sport) is the overall package, the athletes are better at what they do, they are faster, they are stronger and more professional.”
After a break from telecast on free-to-air television, Warner was thrilled that all the weekend’s action would be shown live across the Nine Network.
“I think it is huge for the sport and it is something that the athletes definitely deserve to be back on free-to-air and to be live,” she said.
“Surf life saving events are so exciting, you have got spills and thrills, there are sprint finishes and catching waves.
“Just seeing their skill and how fit these athletes are, they are truly inspiring and they motivate so many people.
“The athletes cannot wait to race.”
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