Queensland has found its stride as a global adventure-endurance capital, drawing record international entries to top-shelf events from Tropical North Queensland to the Gold Coast.
First off the block, the state has become a superhero on the world’s IRONMAN calendar, stepping onto the podium to host next month’s Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship as part of the Cairns Airport Adventure Festival (5-13 June), in a three-year deal to 2018.
Hailed by organisers as home to one of the ‘most picturesque’ courses in the global IRONMAN suite – also including the IRONMAN 70.3 Cairns – one in five of more than 3,500 competitors are making the journey from overseas, led by Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, the United States, China and Hong Kong.
A total of 42 countries will be represented at the event.
By contrast, in 2015, Cairns Airport IRONMAN Cairns and IRONMAN 70.3 Cairns (staged in the region since 2011), drew just over 3000 competitors, with six per cent of participants from overseas.
Of little surprise, the win-win opportunity of competing in, on and around one of the world’s greatest natural wonders ranks high among their reasons for taking up the challenge. A destination like no other, where two World Heritage-listed icons meet – namely the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics rainforest (including the awe-inspiring jungles of the Daintree).
Among them is Angela Montijo, 34, from the US, returning from ‘IRONMAN retirement’ (having crossed finish lines in New Zealand and Barcelona), lured by the opportunity to add the Great Barrier Reef to a travel bucket list with partner and coach, John Rotella, a six-time IRONMAN finisher
“Right now I can only imagine the breathtaking beauty of Cairns, but soon I will be traveling on roads and in waters that most people only ever see on television or in their wildest dreams,” says Angela, an engineer for a medical device company in San Diego.
“It is exciting to know that I will be there competing with some of the best endurance athletes in the world in one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
“I’m looking forward to swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, sitting on a glass bottom boat, practising my Australian accent, skydiving, hiking in the rainforest, seeing a kangaroo in the wild, cycling the iconic Cairns bike course and eating deliciously healthy, authentic Australian food.”
The Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship Cairns (3.8km swim, 180km bike and 42.2km run) and the half-distance IRONMAN 70.3 Cairns mark the grand finale to a diverse, week-long program of events during the Cairns Airport Adventure Festival.
While Tropical North Queensland boasts the IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship, the Sunshine Coast’s Mooloolaba Beach is flexing its muscle to welcome the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship on 4 September 2016.
A global spotlight will also be cast on the Gold Coast during the 38th Gold Coast Airport Marathon (2-3 July). Pitted as Australia’s premier road race, renowned for one of the world’s fastest, flattest courses, hugging Gold Coast surf beaches and broadwater, it is the first marathon in Australia to hold an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Road Race Gold Label. This puts it in esteemed company of the ilk of marathons in New York, Boston, London, Tokyo, Berlin and Chicago.
Don’t miss the action: Queensland is home to Australia’s best live events in the best destinations, as showcased in more than 116 events on Tourism and Events Queensland’s It’s Live! In Queensland calendar.