Lionel Sanders keen to see “limits of human potential”

The colourful Ironman world championship runner-up believes Hawaii offers a true test of what the body is capable of – and says the Norwegians hold the answer

Lionel Sanders of Canada reacts as he approaches the finish line to place second during the 2021 IRONMAN World Championships on May 07, 2022 in St George, Utah.

Lionel Sanders is not a man to mince his words. He’s not bigging up his own credentials for the Ironman World Championship, but is firmly in the corner of Kristian Blummenfelt and Gustav Iden – despite the pair having never raced in Hawaii before.

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The Canadian triathlete who has twice finished second in the world champs – in Hawaii in 2017 and St George in May – is among the favourites as the event returns to the Big Island for the first time in three years.

But despite an impressively controlled performance in Utah, where he ran through to finish second with a 2:42:24 marathon, the 34-year-old is taking nothing for granted.

“I will not jinx myself and say I have the marathon sorted,” the PTO-ranked world No 4 said at the pre-race press conference. “I don’t think you ever have it sorted in this race.”

Understanding the distance 

Having had a string of disappointing Ironman performances since his second-place finish to Patrick Lange in 2017, Sanders has put a renewed focus on understanding the distance in the past 20 months.

“I devoted the 2021 season to figure out how to race the distance and had five performances which got better and culminated this year in St George in May.

“But this is a totally different race course against hard competition and crazy tactical dynamics.”

I started looking at core sensors and this whole world of analysis opened up. Then I realised that the Norwegians helped develop these sensors years ago. They're not rookies, they already know the demands of this race

Having been beaten by Blummenfelt in St George and Iden at Ironman Florida in November, Sanders – who is coached by Iden’s brother Mikal – is eager to see how quick the Norwegian duo can go.

Attention to detail

“We’ve Kristian and Gustav here who are astute at pushing the limits of human potential,” he explained.

“It would appear Kona is a human limiter with the heat and there’s a cap, but if anyone can exceed that cap it’ll be these two guys, and I’m fascinated to be part of it.

“It’s interesting to see their attention to detail and just how technical everything is. In Dallas a couple of weeks ago I had a complete blow-up, which was humbling.

“I started looking at core sensors and this whole world of analysis opened up.

“Then I realised that these guys helped develop these sensors years ago and used it to develop their tri-suits.

“They’ve already thought about this stuff so they are not rookies coming in, they already know the demands of this race.”

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Top image credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for Ironman