Professional Athletes

We are really excited that there will be a pro field at the Integrity Homes Challenge Wanaka Half sponsored by Ray White Wanaka.

See below to find out a little more about the pros who will be racing in 2023.

The pros will be out on the same course as the Age Groupers and will be battling out for the below prize money:

1st male and female – $4000

2nd male and female – $2750

3rd male and female – $1750

4th male and female – $1000

5th male and female – $500


Nzft Wanaka

Sebastian Kienle (GER)

Sebastian Kienle (born 6 July 1984) is considered one of the best triathletes in the world.

Kienle was exposed to the sport of triathlon for the first time at the age of 8 and then knew that he wanted to grow up to be a professional triathlete. He began competing in triathlons at the age of 12.

In 2012, Kienle was able to use his strong bike talent to propel himself to a victory in 2012 at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.He placed 4th a month later at the 2012 Ironman World Championships, posting the second fastest bike split of the day – despite incurring a flat tire. The following year, in 2013, he posted somewhat lackluster results during the season; however, Kienle defended his Ironman 70.3 title by winning the 2013 World Championship race. His biggest success came just a year later in 2014 where he won 2014 Ironman World Championships. Sebastian then went on to win many more races all over the world. For more than a decade he is now one of the best and most consistent triathletes in the world.

“Coming to visit and race in Wanaka is a dream come true and definitely one of my bucket list races!” says Kienle.

Scott Harpham (NZ)

Scott Harpham is based in Carterton and grew up as a typical rural farm kid. Rugby was his passion until he made the switch to triathlon at the beginning of 2020 when he took part in his first Ironman – Ironman NZ where he finished 12th overall, 2nd in his age group. In March 2021 he quit his job to chase his dream of becoming a professional triathlete. The 2022/23 NZ summer is his 1st season racing in the professional field.

Matt Burton (AUS)

Matt grew up in the outer suburbs of Perth’s Eastern Scarp in Swan View. Life before Triathlons was spent focusing on schooling, AFL and cricket. Triathlon was a late introduction yet a heavily motivated change once discovering the multidiscipline approach. Matt’s passion for a Triathlon career began in 2009 at the age of 20. In 2009-2012 he competed as an Age-Group athlete racing, predominately in long course/ironman distance events. In 2013 he turned professional.

2023 is Matt’s 4th trip to Wanaka for Challenge. In 2018 and 2019 he finished 3rd and 2nd respectively.

“Wanaka boasts a race and place that showcases one of the most idyllic places for an event. The beauty of Wanaka even makes a bad day feel ok. I am really looking forward to returning to Wanaka to start the year in one of the finest spots in the southern hemisphere.”

Rebecca Clarke (NZ)

Rebecca Clarke will be racing at Challenge Wanaka for the fourth time. She came second in 2021 and fourth the year before. Born and raised in Auckland, she has recently relocated to Wanaka for her summer base. Rebecca has raced long distance for nearly six years, and after 2020-2021 was disrupted with the pandemic, has had a breakout year in 2022, placing second in Ironman Australia and qualifying for the World Champs. She followed this with fifth at Challenge Roth, eighth at PTO US Open and seventieth in her rookie Ironman World Champs. She loves training in Wanaka and is familiar with the stunningly scenic course.

“After racing all over the world it is still top of the list for me and I can’t wait to be back racing this event in February 2023.”

Matt Kerr (NZL)

Matt first started Triathlon in late 2018 and 2023 will be seen as the beginning of his professional racing career. Spending a fair amount of time AG racing, Matt now feels ready to take his learning to the next level in the sport. Matt has done Challenge Wanaka once previously winning the overall AG and is very excited to be returning. For Matt, this race is part of a fantastic string of events throughout the NZ summer and a tight but achievable squeeze before Ironman NZ. 

Matt has spent most of 2022 overseas racing with his biggest achievement winning the 2021 Ironman World Champs in Utah.

“Wanaka certainly provides a spectacular course highlighted by the picturesque lake swim that I can’t wait to get back to and race in.”

Grace Thek (AUS)

Grace Thek is a professional triathlete from Melbourne, Australia. She comes from a running background having transitioned to triathlons in 2015 and hasn’t looked back! Since turning pro in 2018, she has completed 30 middle distance races in which she has podiumed in 16 of these. She is currently ranked 43rd in the Professional Triathletes Organization (PTO) rankings. In her spare time you might find her hanging out a local café, hunting down the best donuts in town or cuddling her dogs. She is also a qualified physiotherapist and teaches Pilates classes in Melbourne when she is not busy racing around the world. She loves to travel and race in new locations and is very excited to head to Challenge Wanaka for the first time in Feb!

“I have never raced in Wanaka or been to the south island of NZL. Challenge Wanaka is a bucket list race for me and I am really excited to be heading there in 2023 to compete in such a beautiful part of the world. I have heard nothing but great things about the event, location, atmosphere, course and volunteers and I am looking forward to experiencing this for myself in Feb!”

Sam Osborne (NZL)

Sam grew up in the mountain bike capital of New Zealand, Rotorua. Spending far too much time riding mountain bikes as a kid, Sam took up triathlon at school and after racing ITU through Junior & U23, Xterra was a natural progression back to the mountain bike. Since then Sam has won 18 Xterra World Tour titles & 3 World Championship medals but more importantly taken him to some incredible places around the world

In the last 12 months Sam’s been dabbling in some half distance races , which now leads him to Challenge Wanaka.

“I’m really excited to come down to Wanaka to race the half and see how the off-road skills transfer across to the time trial bike. I’ve started dabbling in a few more of the half distance races and Challenge Wanaka is of course one of the absolute must do’s. It’s a really Incredible part of NZ and has a really awesome festival atmosphere so really hard to turn down an opportunity to race in Wanaka. It looks to be shaping up to be an awesome field so should be a great time down south.”

Samantha Kingsford (NZL)

Samantha grew up in a small Rural town of Tirau but does most of her training now in Rotorua. She started Triathlon pretty late compared to most people, but like most Kiwi kids did every sport that was offered at school.

In 2018 she left her full time job as a PE and Health Teacher to race her 1st year as a professional in Off Road Triathlon and see how far she could go within this format of triathlon.  She hasn’t looked back since. With 8 world Tour win and multiple podiums, as well as an overall Pan American tour Title to add to her name.

In 2023 she is having a crack at the 70.3 distance as well, so is very new to this distance and format. This is her 1st time racing Challenge Wanaka.

“I’m really excited to race this race and test myself against some of the best girls from this side of the world.  This race is appealing to me as the off road run hopefully will make feel more within my comfort zone coming from off road.   And also who wouldn’t want to race in the most beautiful part of New Zealand! Race venues don’t get much better than Wanaka landscape!”

Jack Moody (NZL)

I’m an Auckland based triathlete that’s been knuckling down over the 70.3 and Ironman distance over the last few years. Recent highlights over the last 6 months have been a 2nd in 70.3 Oregon, 1st Queenstown half marathon and a 1st at Taupo 70.3 in November 2022. I’m looking forward to a bit of time off work over the summer period to get some training and family time in and will be all guns blazing come Feb for Challenge Wānaka.

It will be maybe my fourth time racing in Wānaka after finally cracking the podium back in 2021 and I would love to go better. The updated course looks great and was definitely a big factor for enticing me back down.

Caleb Noble (AUS)

Growing up in a small country town Ganmain, NSW Australia I grew up playing Aussie rules and was an active kid. I started out triathlon at my local all schools event and from there was hooked. Competing in ITU junior events and progressing into the Victorian institute of sport in Melbourne for U23 and elite ITU racing. In 2018 I decided to focus on long course triathlon where I competed at the Ironman World Championships in the 18-24 age group finishing 6th place.

In 2019 I turned back to professional racing focusing on long course which landed me within top 100 PTO world ranking and the 2022 Australian long course champion.

I am excited to take part at Challenge Wanaka this year. I have only been to one area of NZ, New Plymouth for a World Cup in 2017 and I look forward to a strong field of professional men to kick start my 2023 season.

Els Visser (NED)

Her life changed profoundly in 2014. While traveling in Indonesia, a boat she had taken with 24 other passengers sank in the middle of the night. Clinging for life in the wreckage, Els swam 8 hours to a nearby island where she was finally rescued by a passing boat the next day. This harrowing experience prompted her to live her life to the fullest.

She wanted to be an Ironman and raced her first one in 2017. She finished first of all age groupers. With an open mind, a “never look back” attitude, and untapped potential, she entered the pro triathlon ranks. A year later she became an Ironman Champion, and in 2019 she made her debut in Kona. For the coming years her focus remains on sport and she wants to become the best athlete she can be.

Challenge Wanaka will be a special race for Els. While being shipwrecked she swam for 8 hours, and did this together with Gaylene, a woman from Nelson. After the race in Wanaka she will travel there and this will be the first time that they reunite again. It’s going to be a trip to not forget and this race will be part of that.

“I’m going to make a very special trip to New Zealand. To top it off and make it unforgettable, this race has to be part of it. I am blessed to be able to race it!”

Mike Phillips (NZL)

Mike is a professional triathlete based in Christchurch, New Zealand. Coming from a background in short course ITU racing Mike transitioned to long distance triathlon in 2015, he has competed throughout the world in Ironman/Challenge half and full distance events.

Some highlights include winning 70.3 and Ironman in Taupo, 1st Challenge Melbourne x2, 2nd & 3rd Challenge Wanaka.

Mike spends his summers in Christchurch NZ, training and racing throughout the Asia/Oceania region. In between training he also works part time as Structural Engineer at BAT Structures working on the Canterbury Re-build. During New Zealand winters Mike heads overseas to Europe for 3 months of intensive training & racing.

“I have competed in Challenge Wanaka over both the full and half distance in the past. After racing all over the World it still remains one of my all time favourites, with such a spectacular course”

Simon Billeau (FRA)

Simon is a French (and Aussie…! 😊) pro triathlete living in Perth, WA with his family. He is a proud daddy who wants to inspire them and show them that you can achieve anything if you work hard for it.

His PB on Ironman is 8h20 in Busselton, 2008.

More recently he finished 10th at the Cairns ironman, support of the Asia Pacific championship in 2021.

He had the chance to race in Wanaka back in 2017 on the full distance and finished 6th.

“I’m looking forward to coming back to one of the prettiest places on earth and race for the last time this event.”

Fraser Walsh (AUS)

Based in Brisbane, QLD for the last 4 years but grew up in a country town of Bendigo, Victoria playing a wide variety of sports. I’m 28 have been doing triathlons since I was 12 years of age & come through the junior system but have always had a passion for the long-distance events.

Turned Professional when I was 20years of age & have really enjoyed travelling across the world racing the best athletes and racing in some beautiful locations.

A 2ndplace at Challenge Shepp early 2022 & then a couple top 5s at 70.3 Melbourne & Busselton Full to end my year in 2022. Hoping to start the year well here at Wanaka.

Challenge Wanaka will be the first time visiting & racing here. Honestly can’t wait to kick off my season here. You only ever hear good things about Wanaka & it’s been a race on my to do list for a while now. The Professional field is looking like a cracker & Challenge really do a good job of supporting everyone especially the Pros and I can’t wait to race in this stunning location which I have also heard it is not an easy course!

Courtney Gilfillan (AUS)

Triathlon has taken me many places around the world over my racing career coming from a short course background in ITU triathlon racing from 2010 when I first went professional into long course racing in 2019 where I made the switch over to full time 70.3 distance racing.

I travelled to Wanaka in 2020 to compete falling in love instantly with the town and its surroundings. Unfortunately, my bike didn’t arrive in time, was left in transit. So I am yet to experience the race in full and I am really excited to be returning this year and kick starting my season in such a beautiful location.

“I’m so excited to return to Challenge Wanaka, for the first race of the start of my 2023 season.  I love this beautiful town and I look forward to kick starting my 2023 season at Challenge Wanaka next month.”

Guy Crawford (NZL)

Guy was born and raised in NZ between Rotorua and Auckland. He married an Aussie (Kate Bevilaqua) and now lives in Perth Australia. He has had multiple Top 5 finishes over the 70.3 and Ironman distance, highlights among those are a 3rd Place finish at Challenge Taiwan Full Distance and 1st place finish at Taiwan 70.3

Guys has raced around the globe and has been lucky to call Triathlon (and coaching) his job for well over a decade, so to be fit and healthy and back in his homeland is a treat. Challenge Wanaka will be his first race back after an accident last year.

“I look forward to taking this body to max around Wanaka.”

Kieran Storch (AUS)

Kieran lives in Brisbane and is coached by Ruben De Gendt (Belgium). He has had his pro tri licence since 2019 but has had a couple of interrupted years with injury and COVID. 2022 saw some of his best and worst performances in triathlon (1st Mooloolaba OD, 4th 70.3 Melbourne, well outside top 10 in Challenge St Poelten and Challenge Geraardsbergen).

“Wanaka is the ideal combination of a  stunning race location and a world class pro field. I didn’t want to miss Challenge Wanaka this year!”

Lotte Wilms (NED)

In 2012 I ended my professional swim career to travel the world. When I arrived in 2003 in Australia I stayed and never left since. I got inspired by the nature, loved to run outdoor along the coast and started missing the (professional) sport. After watching Serena Williams playing the Australian open in her 30’s I believed that women in sport was growing, and I wished to be a part of that to bring women sport to a next level. An old swim mates mentioned to try triathlon because I booked some good results in amateur run races in Sydney.  I believed that if I would be 100% committed to the sport of triathlon I would make the Olympics Tokyo 2020. After 6 months training, I got a wild card to compete in the World Cup in Mooloolaba Australia and finished in the top 20. From that moment I was in the Dutch team for triathlon and started to travel the world to hunt down Olympic points. In the end I qualified as a reserve for the Olympics Tokyo 2020 and my mission was complete.

After the Olympics I was ready to explore half ironman distances what I really enjoyed from my first race. In 2022 it was the first year I got the opportunity to be a full-time athlete (another dream that came true) and that paid off with a great season ending 25th in the world PTO ranking and a contract with the Pewag team from Austria. I hope to inspire people/ women in sport that when we have the opportunity to do what we love everything is possible.

“I have not raced in Wanaka before. I raced short distance in the past and have been to New Plymouth to race World Cups short distance a couple of times and really enjoyed my time there. My fiancé has competed Wanaka and he told me how amazing the scenery is and he loved the course and I believe the challenge with some hills in the bike and run suits my strengths.”