Hawaii Ironman champ fires up raw Aussie

Nick Kastelein jokes about stalking triathlon superstar Jan Frodeno when they first met, but the Australian hopes to be right beside him when the Hawaii Ironman heats up this weekend.

A chance meeting with German legend Jan Frodeno proved inspirational for Australia's Nick Kastelein.

A chance meeting with German legend Jan Frodeno proved inspirational for Australia's Nick Kastelein.

Kastelein is one of nine Australian men in the professional field for the iconic endurance race on Saturday in Kona on the Big Island.

While he is on debut in Hawaii and a relative newcomer to Ironman-distance racing, the 29-year-old from the NSW country town of Mudgee is rated by many pundits as Australia's best chance to get on the podium.

A big reason for that is due to a chance meeting three years ago at a pool in Spain with reigning two-time Hawaii Ironman champion Frodeno.

Since then, they have been training partners, and having a front-row seat to the German's dedication and preparation has lifted Kastelein to another level.

Frodeno has achieved just about everything in triathlon, winning titles at every distance. In 2015 became the first triathlete - male or female - to add a Hawaii Ironman crown to Olympic gold.

Kastelein laughs when he recounts the way they met in the northern Spanish city of Girona, where he had set up his training base.

"Yeah, I was stalking him," Kastelein jests.

"And he came up to me and said 'yeah I'm Jan', and I'm like 'I know who you are but I'm going to act like I don't know you'."

Kastelein feels blessed to have been taken under the wing of the 36-year-old, who is married to Australian triathlon legend Emma Snowsill.

"It's really been massive," he said.

"With his mentorship, you're learning from the best. I pretty much credit everything I do at the moment to him."

Australia has a rich history at the Hawaii Ironman world championships, but hasn't had a top-three finisher in the men's event over the last three years.

Prior to that, victories by Pete Jacobs (2012), Craig Alexander (2011, 2009, 2008) and Chris McCormack (2010 and 2007) meant Australians enjoyed a six-year reign.

Frodeno believes Kastelein gained plenty of belief at the Barcelona 70.3 this year when he fell off his bike and ran the half-marathon with a broken collarbone to finish second behind him.

"He pulled a bit of a Chuck Norris in Barcelona," Frodeno told AAP.

"It was one of our proudest moments. And for him to go well on the weekend would mean the world to me. I feel like he's come good at the right time."

Josh Amberger is another Australian on debut in Kona. Given he is an excellent swimmer and strong biker, he is set to spend time at the front of the field.

Jacobs is back for another shot at conquering the savage course, as are 2016 70.3 world champion Tim Reed and Tim Van Berkel.

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