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2020 Ironman and Ironman 70.3 World Championships: Will They Push Through?

AsiaTRI along with some media friends sat in a press call with Ironman CEO Andrew Messick to discuss Ironman’s covid-19 readiness plan as well as the future of Ironman events–including updates on the World Championships, Ironman in Kona on October and Ironman 70.3 in Taupo on November.

“Will the Championships push through?”

Immediately, the big elephant on the video call meeting was addressed. The quick answer by Messick–and it is based on the current state of events–was simply he doesn’t know at the moment.

There are many revolving factors that play into that decision. We do not know if Hawaii and New Zealand will open up their country to visitors weeks before the scheduled events (October 10 for Kona, November 28 for Taupo).

With the recent statement of New Zealand Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern that they would not open their borders for a long time–the 2020 70.3 Worlds in Taupo looks bleak at the moment. Hawaii has a mandatory 14-day quarantine to all visitors and there is no definite timeline to when it will end.

Even if Hawaii and New Zealand open up their borders for non-residents–will they even issue a permit and allow such a huge international event; 2300 athletes competed in the 2019 Ironman World Championships, while 5000 athletes trooped to Nice, France for the 70.3 Worlds. And that is not counting spectators.

The prognosis is definitely not looking good, and one thing we know, is that some forms of social distancing measures will be implemented if ever they go out of the strict lockdown or stay at home restrictions.

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Messick understands that athletes must be informed sooner and well beforehand, that’s why Ironman will issue an announcement before the end of May regarding the status of these two iconic Ironman events.

One contingency plan that Messick mentioned is the possibility of postponing the Ironman World Championships from October to February 2021, giving age groupers more leeway for training and preparation. It also gives Ironman more time to hold the qualifying events. As of now, the Ironman World Championships still needs around 1500 qualifiers, even after opening up the Legacy program and catching up on the back log. If ever Ironman can hold any of the qualifying events on its schedule, expect the KQ slots to double on those events leading up to the Championships.

Ironman Readiness Plan

While many first quarter events have been moved to the last quarter of 2020, it still remains unclear when Ironman events will resume in 2020. It will all depend on the “new normal” measures that local governments will impose where Ironman is a guest. While many countries are slowly easing up on restrictions, endurance sports events are still considered non-essential and if ever they will be allowed–a restriction on participation size will be implemented.

Messick ackowledges that Ironman events post-covid will be smaller and more localized– lesser international participation. Social distancing measures will be involved–and physical interactions will be needed to be reduced. That goes all the way from welcome functions, registration and kit claim, merchandise expos, race briefings, carbo loading parties, aid stations, transitions up to the awards party.

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Education and messaging will also be ramped up on the encouragement for people involved in the race to sit at home when feeling unwell, esepcially with symptoms of respiratory ilness: This includes staff, officials, volunteers, athletes and spectators.

ITU-the world triathlon governing body has issued a Covid-19 prevention guideline for organizers– and whatever has Ironman has in its guidelines book will be definitely similar. This includes drastically reduced social activities and a race where every single aspect of the competition will be reviewed taking into consideration the social distancing in the: start, swim, swim exit, bike, run, finish, penalty boxes, aid stations, etc.

We are all raring back to go out, train and see races back on our calendars but we must acknowledge that we can only do so when our local public health officials gave us the heads up to so. AsiaTRI will update and keep you posted on this article.

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