The Bahrain Victorious 13’s Kat Matthews topped today’s Ironman 70.3 Middle East Championships in Manama, Bahrain, making her maiden race in the Kingdom memorable.
The champion team under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa also claimed medals in the men’s and women’s races with Henri Schoeman and Amelia Watkinson raking in silver.
Matthews, the 2023 Ironman 70.3 vice world champion and multiple Ironman and Ironman 70.3 champion, came out of the 1.9-kilometre bay swim at Reef Island in 6th place under 3 minutes in arrears to the leader, with Watkinson close by in 10th. As the race progressed on the 90-kilometre bike leg, Matthews held steady while Watkinson made up a few places for both athletes to hop off their bikes in 6th and 7th respectively. On the concluding half marathon, the two set off at a speedy clip bringing Matthews into the lead just past the halfway mark. Watkinson moved into second place at the 17th kilometre. Only 30 seconds separated these athletes at the finish line, where His Highness Shaikh Nasser welcomed them with medals.
Matthews said, “Ouch! That was the hardest I’ve worked all year! Turns out you can’t PB in December.
“The bike course was really engaging with the Formula 1 section, and the support on the run was excellent! So much respect for the whole female field here, such a hard race today! It felt like a ‘home race win’, really happy and proud to bring the win home for the Bahrain Victorious 13 Team.”
Schoeman emerged second from the swim and hit the cycle course among powerhouses like teammate Alistair Brownlee, who pushed the pace but unfortunately suffered a puncture at the 85th kilometre. Schoeman got safely through the bike leg in 4th place, then found his run legs to speed into second.
He said, “I’m just so grateful. It’s been an up-and-down year, and to finish the year on a high – I can’t ask for more than that… I tried my best, I put it all out there and started catching him. I may have had the fastest run but it wasn’t enough to secure the win, but to come home second and represent the Bahrain Victorious 13 team, it’s an honour to race in front of the Prince himself and on his home soil.”
Says Bahrain Victorious 13 and Mana Global CEO Chris McCormack, “His Highness Shiekh Nasser welcoming his team home to compete, do our yearly school visits and see the amazing impact sport has on the community is always a wonderful experience.”
The Ironman 70.3 Middle East Championship Bahrain crowned a week of homecoming activities for the Bahrain Victorious 13. A visit on Wednesday to St. Christopher’s School with 20 children ages 8 to 14 from various sports allowed these young athletes to draw inspiration from Matthews, Schoeman, Watkinson and Brownlee alongside teammates Georgia Taylor-Brown, Hayden Wilde and Vincent Luis through the afternoon’s Q&A session and student vs. athlete challenges.
Bahrain Victorious 13 also volunteered at the IronKids race on Thursday morning which drew 500 participants from 3 to 14 years of age, including the children of His Highness Shaikh Nasser who graced the event with his entire family.
The team camp closes out another successful year for the Bahrain Victorious 13, who will return aiming once again for all the major events in 2024.