LAKE PLACID - Jacqui Gordon is a South Africa native living in New Jersey who calls Lake Placid her second home. She hopes that competing in a familiar place will help her earn the first Ironman title of her career.
Gordon was one of five professional triathletes featured at a press conference Friday who spoke about the upcoming Ironman Lake Placid race on Sunday. It's the 14th summer in a row the Olympic Village is hosting the grueling 140.6-mile, three-leg triathlon, and it will be the fifth time Gordon will be vying for a title here.
"I know every single part of this course," said Gordon, who finished fifth twice and also placed sixth two times in her previous races in Lake Placid. "I know the course pretty well and hopefully I can use that to my advantage."
Matthew Russell, a professional triathlete and Canton native, talks during Friday’s press conference at Lake Placid’s Olympic Speedskating Oval while he prepares to compete in the 14th Ironman Lake Placid Sunday.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
The other four triathletes who appeared at the Olympic Oval to talk to an audience of about 50 are also seeking their first win in Lake Placid. And their resumes are pretty impressive, starting with the only Australian in the group, Peter Jacobs. In 2011, he was runner-up in the biggest Ironman race of them all - the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.
A North Country native, Matthew Russell of Canton, was also in the group along with fellow Americans Andy Potts, a 2004 Athens Olympian, and Maine native Sarah Piampiano, who turned pro less than a year ago and has piled up numerous first-place finishes as an amateur at both half and full Ironman distances.
Gordon said that when it comes to crowd support and scenery at an Ironman, Lake Placid tops the list.
"Since I've been living in New Jersey, it hasn't been hard getting to Lake Placid," Gordon said. "It's my second home. I train here a lot - two weeks at a time -and I just love it. The crowds and the beautiful landscapes help keep me in a positive frame of mind. With the vibe there, it's one of the most awesome races you'll ever do."
"This time, I changed my approach to racing here," Gordon continued. "The other times, I focused everything on the outcome. This one on Sunday, my goal is to have fun. If I'm having fun, I'm probably having a good day out there."
The 29-year-old Russell, who now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., had his first introduction to the Ironman triathlon when he worked as a volunteer at a Lake Placid race when he was in high school. Since then, Russell has traveled around the world competing in endurance sports like triathlons, duathlons, running races and even snowshoe events. While competing, he is raising awareness for Lou Gehrig's Disease, also known as ALS.
A year ago, Russell finished 10th overall in Lake Placid and had a 23rd-place result at the Ironman World Championships.
"I saw my first Ironman as a volunteer in Lake Placid in either 2001 or 2002," RusselI said. "I volunteered again the next year. I loved it. There's always a great atmosphere in Lake Placid. I've even done the mini-triathlons here."
Piampiano also saw her first Ironman in Lake Placid. Recently, she has been living in California and over the past six months, has been "training like crazy" on her bike in the Santa Monica hills.
"I grew up in Maine on the East Coast. I'm racing in the east and I'm going to have a lot of support here," Piampiano said. "Lake Placid is such an iconic venue."
With finishes of eighth or better in the past three Ironman World Championships, Jacobs could be considered a favorite to win the men's pro division Sunday. Potts, a former NCAA All-American swimmer at the University of Michigan, a top-10 finisher in Hawaii and a world champion at the half Ironman distance, also should be a contender.
But as is always the case at an Ironman event, it's a long day where anything can happen.
"Wanting to do well and doing well is two totally different things," Potts said. "I certainly don't have this sport figured out."