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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, October 5, 2001

Imonen mended, back in Ironman Triathlon

 •  Defending champions highlight Ironman field

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Kona resident Brent Imonen, who also won the Tinman Triathlon, will be competing in the Ironman for the first time since 1998.

Advertiser library photo • July 14, 1996

He's back.

After taking a two-year hiatus to recover from a host of flesh-and-blood injuries, Brent Imonen is ready to be an Ironman again.

Imonen, 32, joins an elite tomorrow at the 2001 Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Kailua, Kona.

The event is comprised of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile marathon.

Imonen, a professional triathlete, last competed in Kona in 1998, finishing in 9 hours, 56 minutes and 55 seconds. He recorded his best time (9:04:58) in 1996 when he placed first among local entries and 29th overall. Injuries forced him out of the past two races.

"I refer to 2001 as being back in my up mode," Imonen said.

Imonen grew up on O'ahu and was a standout on the Kaiser High School swim team. He attended the University of California-Bakersfield on a swimming scholarship.

Imonen's talents in the water eventually drew him into triathlons, first as a relay ringer and later as a solo competitor.

He competed in his first of eight consecutive Kona Ironman triathlons in 1991, finishing that race in 10:49:37. Over the next decade, Imonen would emerge as one of the most relentless and successful triathletes in Hawai'i, winning the prestigious Keauhou Kona Triathlon in 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1998.

Still recovering from the effects of a brutal 1999 season, Imonen separated his shoulder during an offroad triathlon at the Gorge Games in Oregon in July 2000.

"I was on the last mile of the mountain bike course and I was descending when I hit the wrong way at too much speed," he said. "I somersaulted still attached to the bike."

Imonen, whose typical training week involves 35 miles of running, 250 miles of biking and long hours of swimming, was forced to a screeching halt.

"I was in a sling for two months," he said. "With this type of injury, the ligaments pull and don't bounce back, so I could feel them moving when I tried to run and bike. I ended up being mostly sedentary, just doing rehab."

Still, Imonen wouldn't be held back for long. By October, he was back competing in a half-Ironman triathlon in Tahiti. Although it was only the second time since his injury that Imonen had swum, he wound up winning the race.

"The shoulder still bothers me 70 percent of the time but not enough to inhibit me," he said. "I thought Tahiti would be a way to jump start me."

It worked. So far this year, Imonen has won the Honolulu International Triathlon and placed second in the Lavaman, Tinman and Keauhou Kona triathlons.

Imonen, who now lives in Kona with his wife, Sarie, hopes to be one of the top 10 competitors out of the water at this weekend's race. He anticipates typically windy conditions near Hawi, an area known to demoralize even the strongest bicyclists.

"You might have to work a little harder at the beginning, but that can round out on the run course," he said.

If so, Imonen could challenge his personal best. He says he's been doing some of his best running this season.

"I've had a long time to recover and I feel like I've got my energy back," he said. "I've had two years off from the Ironman and, in retrospect, I think everyone needs a little break."