Swansong for Ironman legend

ironman Tom Edwards
Jason Shortis will retire after Sunday's event.

It will be an emotional moment for triathlon legend Jason Shortis when he lines up at the start of the Sunsmart Ironman WA on Sunday.

The Queenslander is retiring from the sport after a staggering 83 Ironman events during an impressive 22-year career.

Shortis, 44, has won the Busselton leg twice in the past and still holds the course record.

"I just want to have a good race and go out on my own terms," he told the _Times _. "It will be a celebration in many respects. Busselton holds good memories for me and it feels a lot like home.

"I've always raced really well here; I've been well supported by the people.

"The whole weekend has a good vibe to it, a fantastic feel."

Conditions look favourable for Sunday's gruelling triathlon, with temperatures hovering in the mid-20s and light winds building throughout the day.

Shortis said Busselton's reputation as a flat and fast course could be misleading.

"A lot of people think it's easier but you don't get to cruise it all, you have to keep pushing forwards," he said. "It makes it a mental battle and it's quite tough because of that.

"It's like a long drag race all day."

Preparations for the 11th Sunsmart Ironman WA have been underway in Busselton all week.

Nearly 1900 competitors will tackle the 3.8km swim, 180.25km bike ride and 42.2km run.

Busselton's biggest ever field of professional athletes is due, with multiple Ironman 70.3 champion Joe Gambles and defending women's champion Liz Lyles both hot favourites.

Ironman Asia Pacific media manager Daniel Hoy said the Sunsmart Ironman WA offered something unique on the international triathlon circuit.

"When you have lots of international athletes come out for a race, they see other athletes and if they have a good time they tend to talk it up," he said.

"The swim around the jetty is an iconic swim for us.

"To be able to swim around it and not have to worry about navigation is unique."

Mr Hoy said this year's bike course had been expanded to two laps to minimise the time athletes were away from the transition area and increase interaction with spectators.

The sold-out event was on course to break the 2000-athlete barrier next year and, as always, community support was phenomenal, Mr Hoy said. "The community embraces it. The volunteers are fantastic," he said.