The 15th and final Ironman of 2000 happens this weekend

Olivier Bernhard  Credit: Robert Oliver
Despite the late withdrawals of Germany's Katja Mayer, last year's women's winner, and Chuckie Veylupek, the fields for Sunday's Isuzu Ironman Florida are looking better than last year's — thanks partly to $25,000 in prize money.

Last year's race, which had no prize money, had a pair of German winners in Mayer and Lothar Leder, who was making up for a disqualification in the Hawaii Ironman three weeks before. This year's race also has a few names looking to make up for poor performances in Kona on Oct. 14.

Those include two DNFs there, Switzerland's Olivier Bernhard and Canada's Melissa Spooner. They also include Czech Republic's Petr Vabrousek, whose 35th in Kona was troubling to him after wins in both Ironman Asia and the Almere Ironman-distance race in the Netherlands.

The darkhorse in the men's field appears to be Denmark's Torbjorn Sindball. He was a DNF in Ironman USA in July, but made his name in the long-distance rankings when he was runner-up in the 1999 ITU World Long-Distance Championships at Sater, Sweden.

Other familiar names in the men's field include Canada's Jamie Cleveland, trying to finish an Ironman after his debut in Ironman Canada ended with a DNF, and Germany's Wolfgang Dittrich.

The women's race features Spooner and Australia's Jan Wanklyn, who was fifth in Ironman Europe and second in Ironman California, earlier this year. Two Americans who also raced Ironman Canada, Andrea Fisher (fourth) and Lauren Trent (sixth), should do well.

Another name to watch is Florida's Gina Derks Gardner — making her Ironman debut after four seasons of focusing on ITU World Cup racing.

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