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Sam Appleton breaks through for maiden ironman win

It was the sweetest three hours, 54 minutes and 57 seconds of Sam Appleton's life.

This wasn't some leisurely Sunday stroll around Lake Burley Griffin as the 23-year-old from the Blue Mountains broke through for his maiden victory in the 70.3 Ironman series.

Appleton conquered the challenging Canberra course courtesy of a powerful run leg, while Bek Keat was dominant in leading the women's race from start to finish.

It was a worthy reward for Appleton after coming close in the past couple of months. A second place at the Port Macquarie 70.3 event in October was followed by a third in the Australian championships in Mandurah in November.

Appleton raced in Europe for a couple of years before taking a break away from the sport after the 2010-11 season.

He has returned invigorated and has set himself the goal of competing in next year's 70.3 Ironman world championships in Canada.

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''It feels good to finally get that under my belt,'' Appleton said.

''I started off as an ITU (International Triathlon United) athlete based in the shorter stuff, but I started to lose the love of the sport, had some time off and started to do the 70.3 races. It's something I've had some reasonable success at and something I want to continue in the future.''

Appleton pushed the pace in the swim in a group including James Hodge and Michael Fox before putting his foot down in the 21-kilometre run leg. ''I knew if we could get a break out of the water that would work to my advantage,'' Appleton said. ''We really worked together and we got off with a bit of an advantage off the bike.

''I ran the first 7k pretty hard to try and get out on my own then I settled in from there.''

For Keat, it was another impressive performance after breaking course records in the 70.3 races in Austin, Texas and Shepparton, Victoria in the past two months.

The 35-year-old stopped the clock in a time of 4:28.07 in front of Madeleine Oldfield (4:36.39) and Kym Jaenke (4:39.22).

''The run was pretty bad, usually that's my strength, but I really pushed the bike today and that paid off with my big lead,'' Keat said. ''I am just pretty tired from the last few races that I have done recently.

Canberra 70.3 Ironman: Men: 1. Sam Appleton. 2. Matthew Pellow. 3. James Hodge. Women: 1. Bek Keat (4:28.07). 2. Madeleine Oldfield (4:36.39). 3. Kym Jaenke (4:39.22).