IMWC, don’t go! – Triathlete

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Let’s start with the obvious: Ever since I wrote the tabletop books to celebrate the 25th, 30th and 40th anniversary of the Ironman World Championship, I love the history, traditions and legends of what I consider to be. most important one-day endurance event. on the planet. In my opinion, a big part of what makes the Ironman World Championship so special is the Big Island of Hawaii itself.

Moving the Ironman World Championship from the Big Island would be like moving the Boston Marathon to New Hampshire or the New York Marathon to Albany.

There are very few events in the world where the course and location is a big part of the mystique and IMHO the Ironman World Championship and its connection to the Big Island is right at the top of it. a very short list. .

I fully understand that the pandemic is forcing the Ironman to move the 2021 Ironman World Championship to St. George, Utah next May, but I also expect this to be a unique thing. and that the most important triathlon in the world then return to its home on the Big Island next October.

Read the counterpoint: Commentary: Why St. George wins over Kona

John and Judy Collins created the Ironman in February 1978, and 15 lunatics showed up in Oahu that day to see if anyone could actually swim 140.6 miles of swimming, biking, and running. Incredibly, 12 actually finished. In 1979 the same number of madmen finished, but with a cool addition: Lyn Lemaire became the first woman to participate in the race and she finished fifth overall. The Illustrated sports 1979 racing history led to huge growth the following year and 108 of us including myself, eventual six-time champion Dave Scott, future mountain biking legend Ned Overend, star cyclist John Howard and future Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray raced the last Ironman on Oahu.

Tom Warren, 1979 winner on his way to 10th place in 1982. Photo: Mike Plant

Race director and visionary Valerie Silk realized that the Ironman couldn’t grow if she didn’t find a place that could grow with her event. She did it. When Valerie, who wasn’t a triathlete herself, first visited the Big Island and thought about ways to create an epic course, she thought athletes might get bored on the Queen K Highway, and the plan was to take cyclists to the volcano and back. Cooler heads prevailed and the most iconic course in all of triathlon has become. The athletes swam at Kailua Bay in 1981 and have swam there every year since. When the athletes return to Kona in October 2022, they will descend the same steps to Dig Me Beach that all of the Ironman World Champions from Dave Scott to Jan Frodeno and Paula Newby-Fraser to Daniela Ryf have walked since 1981. When I go swimming early in the morning whenever I’m in Kona I get goosebumps every time I go down those stairs.

The view at “Dig Me Beach”

History can do that to you.

When the Ironman Hopes for 2022 roll out of the ocean on race day, they’ll hop on their bikes and head down the Queen K Highway to the scenic seaside town of Hawi. Along this legendary bike course in 2007, defending champion Normann Stadler ended up dropping out of the race with a flat tire and “too much glue; In October 1982, Mark Allen introduced himself to Dave Scott after catching him on the bike; in the early 1980s, Dave Horning had a catered lunch, table, tablecloth and waiter delivered; in 2010, Chris McCormack enlisted other top riders to help him tackle Craig Alexander in the cross winds between Kawaihae, Hawi and back so Alexander didn’t win his third straight title and Macca could win his second ; in 2008 Chrissie Wellington was standing by the side of the road with a flat tire and no way to get any air in it until her fellow pro Rebecca Keat threw her a Qwikfil so she could fix her tire and defend his title; and in 1995, Germany’s Thomas Hellriegel flew over Mark Allen to carve out a 13:31 minute lead over the five-time world champion Ironman.

Ironman World Champion Normann Stadler stands by the side of the road in 2007. Photo: Rich Cruse

Ironman’s story is about those classic moments in time when a move was made or not, when an athlete seized the opportunity and became an instant legend or simply disappeared into the bright lights of the bigger stage. of our sport.

Everything mixes and weaves. I can’t drive along the Queen K Freeway from the airport to Kailua-Kona without glancing to my right and remembering Leanda Cave and Mirinda Carfrae rushing into Natural Energy Lab in 2012 pretty much together – with Cave surprisingly ahead when they emerged. It was also where we saw Dave Scott at the age of 40, five years after his last attempt in Kona, chasing young Aussie Greg Welch and reducing the lead to 11 seconds in 1994. Welchie became the first non-American man to win. the race that year, and in the 25 years that followed, only two American men – Mark Allen in 1995 and Tim DeBoom in 2001 and 2002 – won.

Closer to town is Mark and Dave Hill, the place where, in 1989, Mark Allen surprised Dave Scott and completed 23.5 miles in the marathon that earned him his first Ironman World Championship title in his seventh attempt.

Dave Scott and Mark Allen run neck and neck in the ‘Ironwar’ 1989. Photo: Lois Schwartz

After winning the race I dubbed IronWar, Mark Allen has never lost again on the Big Island.

When you do a practice run and turn right onto Hualalai before taking that legendary right turn onto Ali’i Drive, you can almost see what Karen Smyers saw in 1995: right in front of her was the person. which she apparently had always pursued. —Seven-time Ironman world champion Paula Newby-Fraser — directly in front of her and totally out of gas. Karen actually reached out to keep Paula from tipping over before winning her first and only Ironman World Championship title.

And when you turn right onto Ali’i Drive, as you head towards the pier, you know that along that stretch of sidewalk is where Julie Moss collapsed and ended up crawling up to the finish after being overtaken for victory by Kathleen McCartney in February 1982.

Julie Moss crawls to the finish after relinquishing the lead at IMWC in 1982. Photo: Carol Hogan

This moment changed our sport forever.

These are not just moments in time, they are moments forever linked to the Big Island of Hawaii. If the powers that be choose to rotate the Ironman World Championship to other parts of the world, my fear is that all those classic Ironmoments, which are so tied to the Big Island and which we relive every October, will simply cease to exist. ‘to exist.

The race, the history, the legends and all of those special moments are forever tied to this windy, hot, brutal, beautiful and unforgiving backdrop known as the Big Island of Hawaii, and the Ironman World Championship never ends. should never, ever leave him behind.


Get ready for the Ironman St. George and the 2022 Ironman World Championship race with full course recognition from Heather Wurtele: Everything you need to know about the Ironman St. George course



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