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LAKE PLACID— Sarah Piampiano wasn’t even worried about making the Ironman World Championship this year.
That changed in April.
Piampiano, who lives in Los Angeles, recently turned professional, and she and her coach set other goals for her first pro season.
“Kona’s always in the back of your mind; you always want to make it. But going into every race this year, I just said to myself, ‘Gain experience and do the best you can,’” Piampiano said. “I then won the New Orleans 70.3 in April, and that was a big breakthrough for me. And it kind of changed the game a little bit.”
The World Championship is annually held in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii in October and is usually just referred to by triathletes as “Kona.” Amateurs can earn a spot by being a top performer in their age group at an Ironman event, but professionals have to qualify through a rankings system. The first qualifying cutoff is July 29, with the top 40 men and 25 women (excluding automatic qualifiers) securing places.
Defending World Champion Craig Alexander has a huge lead in the men’s standings with 13,970 points, but he’s an automatic qualifier. Andreas Raelert of Germany is next at 8,360. Pete Jacobs, who’s racing in Sunday’s Ironman Lake Placid, is sixth (6,425). Romain Guillaume and Matthew Russell, also in Sunday’s field, are 33rd and 37th, respectively.
Caroline Steffen tops the women’s standings with 13,320 points. Piampiano is five spots outside the cut line with 3,745 points. Today’s winners earn 1,000 points.
Ten more men and five women will get in after the second cutoff on Aug. 27.
“So going into this race, it is in the back of my mind,” Piampiano said. “But I’m more focused on the results in this race than I’m thinking about Kona right now. If Kona happens, it will be honestly the icing on the cake to what’s already been a really phenomenal year for me.”
Sarah Piampiano, on training in the Santa Monica Mountains: “The training there is absolutely phenomenal, and I’ve spent the last six months training in the hills like crazy. So for me, I’m definitely looking forward to I would say definitely the bike, and certainly the run.”
Canton-area native Matthew Russell on volunteering in Lake Placid as a teen: “I came down with a bunch of friends. And I think the first year we helped out with putting all the wetsuits in the bags and putting on the numbers, which was a blast. Then I think the next year we worked at the crosswalk, like directing people across. So it’s a great atmosphere.”
Pete Jacobs on dealing with pain and fatigue during a race: “I cut myself off at the neck. All those thoughts are in your head; they’re not your body. That’s just your mind telling you it hurts and things like that. It’s not real.”
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