Back to Ironman this week and the “controversy” surrounding 2013’s Ironman World Champion, Mirinda Carfrae. Carfrae’s performance in Florida last weekend came under the spotlight as she, according to critics, used the occasion of Ironman Florida to “sandbag” the race. Sandbagging is a somewhat insulting American term for deliberately going just fast enough and no more to gain a qualifying time. In Carfrae’s case or Rinny as she is better known it was done to qualify for the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii next year without taxing her body as she would in a highly competitive race. In so doing, critics claim she has disrespected the Florida race and the very essence of sport which rewards honest effort.
Critics are missing the big picture here. Carfrae is a professional athlete Ironman is her job, her income. Kona is the be all and end all of Ironman especially for the defending World Champion or any professional. Ironman affiliated races around the world, including Florida, are part of the Ironman World Series with qualifying slots up for grabs for the final. They are seen as heats and as harsh as that may seem to people passionately involved in the organisation of these races that is the view of the two thousand who do and the many thousands who aspire to qualify for Kona each year.
Would you expect Usain Bolt to race at maximum effort in all of the qualifying heats at a race meet be it the Worlds or the Olympics? No. You would expect him to take a sensible approach which would see him do just enough to qualify and save his energy and best performance for when he needs it most, in the final. Call it sandbagging if you will.
Racing an Ironman takes a hell of a lot out of the body but the real toll is taken in the long hours, 30 – 40 a week, in training. We all know an athlete needs to be at their optimal level of physical and mental fitness when they toe the line at any race. In Ironman, endurance levels needed to swim 2.4 miles, cycle 112 miles and run 26.2 are huge and if you intend to be world champion those levels rise to almost astronomical heights. Can you really blame a world champion for doing “just enough” to qualify at the very beginning of the season in order to focus training on the world final?
As Carfrae tweeted “#Konavalidate that is all”
Carfrae, M. (2013) Mirindacarfrae on Twitter, Available at: https://twitter.com/DavieJCizzle/status/396771533852774400 (accessed: 09th November 2013)
Castello, P. (2013) Crowie, Rinny & Boom Boom Reed answer your questions, Available at: http://www.chicagonow.com/going-the-distance/2011/11/craig-alexander-mirinda-carfrae-answer-your-questions/ (accessed: 09th November 2013)