Ironman NZ: Braden Currie embraces challenge as sport gets multimillion-dollar investment

Braden Currie is out to right the wrongs of his past Ironman New Zealand outings, after finishing third in 2019 and failing to finish the year before. 

But the 2017 champion has more to think about than just Saturday's race, with the sport riding the wave of a multimillion-dollar private investment. 

Currie is one of the favourites to take out the elite men's title in Taupo, but his priorities have had to change. 

This is set to become one of his busiest years, after the $10m investment has seen the sport take on a new life and Currie's in line to reap the benefits. 

"It’ll be cool to be able to see the sport progress and the professionals get more exposure," Currie told Newshub.  

"[I] don’t think the professional aspect of the sport has stood on its own two feet yet. There’s been years and years of minimal support for what we do."

With the new investment, a world rankings system has been established and Currie currently sits seventh in the world. 

That all but guarantees him a spot in the international team for the newly formed Collins Cup, an Ironman race between Europe, the USA and International selections.

"Athletes will get paired up the night before against other athletes and they’ll race in groups of three," says Currie.

"It’ll be a lot more of a team race, there’ll be a lot more tactical stuff going on, we’ve got team captains… very much like the Ryder Cup."

But before Currie can switch his focus to that race in Slovakia, he's firmly fixed on Taupo, but adding a second Ironman title in three years won't come easy. 

Michael Phillips stunned the field with his maiden win last year, but the Cantabrian admits the build-up to his title defence has not been ideal. 

"I’ve got a bit of an injury with a herniated disc in my back, so that’s meant a bit more biking and a bit less running than last year," Phillips told Newshub.

Women’s champion Jocelyn McCauley has also had a shaky build-up, battling the flu for the last week. 

But with the sport entering a new wave of professionalism, results earn qualification points and that earns cash.

So there’s more than just pride on the line in tomorrow’s race.