Triathlon setback might help Carfrae
Photo Source: AAP
Mirinda Carfrae's Hawaiian Ironman disaster might prove a blessing in disguise for the Australian triathlon great.
Carfrae was hit by a car while riding her bike, three days before last year's event.
She withdrew mid-race because of her injuries, ending the amazing nine-year streak of Australian winners at Hawaii.
Carfrae was going for her third-straight title and fourth overall.
She and Craig Alexander are the only Australians to win Hawaii three times and Carfrae is fourth overall among the women behind Paula Newby-Fraser (eight), Natascha Badmann (six) and Chrissie Wellington (four).
While devastated at having to pull out of the race, Carfrae feels it took some pressure off her.
"Obviously I was in great shape leading into the race ... but hindsight is a beautiful thing," she said.
"It might have been a blessing in disguise - I certainly was a little bit mentally fatigued.
"It's been quite nice to start this year without too many obligations or too many people pulling me in different directions."
Carfrae and defending Swiss champion Daniela Ryf headline a new-look women's field.
Rebecca Joyce, Caroline Steffen and Australian Liz Blatchford - all top-five finishers - are notable absentees.
Instead, Australian Melissa Hauschildt is a notable newcomer.
There has been plenty of speculation about how Hauschildt might perform in Hawaii, but until now injuries have kept her out of the race.
"Mel is an unknown, but clearly she is in really good shape and she's a phenomenal athlete," Carfrae said.
"She's healthy this year, for her first time ... it will be interesting to see what she's able to give."
Carfrae's husband, American Tim O'Donnell, is also a favourite among the men after his career-best third place last year at Kona.
German pair Jan Frodeno and Sebastian Kienle have won the past two Hawaiian Ironman titles.
It has been a good year for Carfrae and O'Donnell, who built a dream house in Boulder, Colorado and moved into it two months ago.
No married couple has won Hawaii in the same year.
"If things go the way we believe they can ... then there's no reason why it can't happen," Carfrae said.
"That would be the No.1 goal - I don't know how we could do anything better than that.
"But a lot of things have to go right."
Tim Reed, who won the world 70.3, or half-Ironman, title in September on the Sunshine Coast, and Tim Van Berkel are the top Australian hopes among the men.
Another Australian entrant of note is age grouper Turia Pitt, who has recovered from severe burns to continue her career as an endurance athlete.
The day-long Ironman world championships race is a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and 42.2km marathon run, with a field of about 2300.
Tropical heat and humidity and often strong winds on the bike add to the challenges at triathlon's most famous race.