It was a week to remember and arguably one of the most emotional weekend’s in triathlon history.
On September 4, 5 and 6, after an almost 200 days of COVID-19-induced hiatus, The IRONMAN Group celebrated a remarkable return to triathlon racing with a weekend consisting of five events throughout Europe.
In the first weekend of IRONMAN® racing since IRONMAN® 70.3® Oman on February 21, 2020, a total of 3,500 athletes raced in the Hamburg Wasser World Triathlon Series turned World Championship in Hamburg, Germany, IRONMAN 70.3 Les Sables d’Olonne in France, IRONMAN 70.3 Gdynia in Poland and IRONMAN 70.3 Tallinn as well as IRONMAN Tallinn in Estonia.
“It’s hard to put it into words. Athletes love to race, and we love to create all these events. You can’t ignore things look a little different with masks and the guidelines that allow us to conduct these races but, in the end, the feeling of getting back to racing is priceless. We are learning event-by-event and we are looking forward to working with all host cities to bring back racing under safe and enjoyable conditions for all involved,” said Stefan Petschnig, Managing Director IRONMAN Europe, Middle East & Africa.
All races followed The IRONMAN Group’s Return to Racing protocol, a set of industry leading guidelines that builds on the pillars of enhanced hygiene, screening and education, density reduction, touchpoint minimization and athlete self-reliance.
“It was really nice to be able to compete at this level this year after all. With the clear and uncompromising hygiene and safety measures of the Hamburg organizers, such events would certainly have been possible earlier and will be in the future,” said Laura Lindemann of Germany, who placed third in the Hamburg Wasser World Triathlon Series in Hamburg. This year, the event was held exclusively for elite athletes and without spectators.
“I was super-motivated and even a little bit nervous to be finally back to racing. The COVID-19 measures taken were necessary and as athletes we must set a good example and comply with them. I think it worked out really, really well,” added Frederik Van Lierde of Belgium. His race at this year’s IRONMAN 70.3 Les Sables d’Olonne also marked the end of an illustrious sporting career which includes multiple IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 wins and the 2013 IRONMAN World Championship® title.
Van Lierde was not the only former champion racing on this historic weekend.
Sebastian Kienle of Germany, the 2014 IRONMAN World Champion, made a last-minute decision to travel to Estonia’s capital of Tallinn and compete in the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Tallinn event: “I am just very grateful. The organizers, the City of Tallinn and everyone who helped to make this race happen under these circumstances. It means a lot to us, especially the pro athletes [who live off the sport] to be able to race here. Thank you.”
When it came to recounting race experiences, Olympian Lisa Nordén of Sweden, may have summarized it best after her win at IRONMAN 70.3 Gdynia in Poland with a big smile: “Who would have thought it can feel so good to put on a wetsuit?”
While the professional athletes were delighted to get back to racing, so were the age-group athletes racing at the events. UK athlete, Luke Richards from the Rhondda Triathlon Club took on his first triathlon at the IRONMAN 70.3 Les Sables d’Olonne. “I had an amazing experience at IRONMAN 70.3 Les Sables-d’Olonne. This was my first ever triathlon and I was amazed by how well organised and professional everything was. The officials were great and the support from the spectators was outstanding and made the event all the more enjoyable.”
IRONMAN racing in Europe is scheduled to continue with IRONMAN 70.3 Turkey on November 1, 2020.