Triathlete Lisa Norden, the silver medalist at the 2012 Olympic Games, wants to have a little fun at Sunday's St. Anthony's Triathlon.
"Last year was very intense for me," the 28-year-old Swede said. "Everything went my way. But now I am looking to do something a little different."
Norden, who lost the gold in London to Nicola Spirig in a photo finish, won a Half Ironman two weeks ago in the Canary Islands. She's looking at the flat, Olympic-distance course along St. Petersburg's waterfront as an early season tuneup.
"I'm hoping this race will secure my spot at the 5150 U.S. Championship in Des Moines," she said. "I want to go back home to Stockholm already qualified."
Many of the nearly 100 professional triathletes signed up for Sunday are hoping to earn points for the nine-city 5150 circuit, which opens with the St. Anthony's event.
"This is one of the best pro fields I have ever seen," said Brian Harrington, a former U.S. Triathlon Association board member who has been the St. Anthony's play-by-play announcer for more than a decade. "You will have a lot of talented athletes racing Sunday."
Professional endurance sport athletes from 44 states and 23 countries will be competing for a total purse of $65,000. Triathlon fans can look for a battle between Norden, who had several first-place finishes in both the draft-legal International Triathlon Union and 5150 races in 2011 and 2012, and Germany's Anne Haug, the Grand Final winner of the 2012 ITU World Triathlon Series in Auckland, New Zealand.
"I think Lisa will be setting the pace out there," said Haug, 30. "She is really very fast. We used to train together, and I know she will be hard to beat."
In addition to Norden and Haug, the women's pro field will include Floridian Alicia Kaye, who finished second here last year, and Great Britain's Jodie Stimpson, who was third.
Other women to watch include 2012 U.S. Olympian Laura Bennett, who was also the national champion in 2003 and 2010; New Zealand's Andrea Hewitt, another former Olympian and world champion; and Australian Mirinda Carfrae, the 2010 Ironman world champion.
In the men's field, 36-year-old Filip Ospaly of the Czech Republic, winner of the 2011 and 2012 St. Anthony's triathlons, will be hoping to add a third victory to his resume. But Germany's Jan Frodeno, the gold medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, loves to race in the heat.
"I love Florida," said Frodeno, who finished sixth at the 2012 Olympics. "This is my kind of weather ... as far as I am concerned, the hotter the better."
Frodeno is used to racing in international competition, where riders are allowed to draft behind each other during the bike portion.
"This will be a bit of a novelty for me," he said. "There is no drafting in this race. Out there on the bike, you are by yourself. There is no place to hide."
Look for a strong cycling leg from Matt Reed, a two-time St. Anthony's winner, who also went to the 2008 Olympics. Reed, one of the strongest riders in the sport, was born in New Zealand but became an American citizen and raced for the U.S. team.
Other top men who might finish in the money include Tim O'Donnell, an Ironman champion who finished third here last year; former Floridian Hunter Kemper, a four-time Olympian who raced in St. Petersburg as a youth; Tim Don, a five-time British national champion and winner of seven ITU World Cups; and American Greg Bennett, a former world champion and Olympian who won here in 2005.
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St. Anthony's Triathlon
When/where: Today and Sunday; St. Petersburg (registration closed)
Distance: Swim 1.5 kilometers (0.93 miles), bike 40K (24.8), run 10K (6.2)
Schedule: Today, Straub Park - 9 a.m.-7 p.m., sports and fitness expo; noon-6, athlete check-in; noon-7, mandatory bike check-in (at Vinoy Park); 2, novice/beginner clinic; 4, clinic for women.Sunday, North Shore Park - 4:45-6:45 a.m., transition area open and body marking; 6:50 a.m., start; 12:30 p.m., pro/elite amateur awards; 1, course closes and awards.
Meek & Mighty
When/where: Today; North Shore Pool, St. Petersburg
Distances: Ages 7-10 - swim 100 yards, bike 3.6 miles, run half-mile; ages 11 and over - swim 200 yards, bike 5.4 miles, run 1 mile
Schedule: 6:30 a.m., athlete check-in, transition area open and body marking; 7:30 a.m., start for ages 16-plus; 8:15, start for ages 11-15; 9, start for ages 7-10