Tim Don on IRONMAN Kona split: Will it be a hit or a miss?

Chief Correspondent

Great Britain’s Tim Don is a man who knows a little bit about the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. The three-time Olympian and World Champion in triathlon, duathlon and aquathlon during his illustrious career, suffered terrible injuries just days before the 2017 edition, which included fractured C2 vertebrae.

His recovery and ‘Man with the Halo‘ story was remarkable, and 12 months after that horrific incident he was back on the Big Island, and completed the race.

Heavily involved in several avenues of the sport now, including being a key part of the Super League Triathlon structure, we wanted to get his experienced first impressions on the IRONMAN World Championship news that was formally confirmed on Wednesday.

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Tim Don
Tim Don
Tim is a triathlon and IRONMAN legend. And alongside Ian Dempsey he’s created Halo ID, a global community for like-minded people with a love for triathlon and endurance sport – all about your next level, whatever that may be.

‘The first year will be massive’

“I’m quite surprised how they are splitting it. Putting on my IRONMAN hat, it’s a business – and the business is a billion dollar business – and it’s all about making money and pleasing the shareholders, I’m guessing. If they can have more people going to World Champs, they can make more money, so in that way I can see it.

“For the Pros it’s going to be interesting. The first year will be massive in terms of what’s the buzz like at Kona? Are the sponsors going to turn up to both? Because don’t forget that – it needs to be supported by everyone; age-groupers, Pros, and the industry alike, especially the endemic sponsors, so that will be interesting.”

Tim Don / IRONMAN World Championship / Kona 2018
Photo Credit: ‘Ingo Kutsche’

Mixed reaction expected from Pro athletes

“I think you will get a mixed reaction from the Pros. If you love climbing [Ed. and the strong rumours that the race will be held in Nice, France, prove correct] and you want to stay in Europe, they are going to love racing there.

“Kona is kind of a neutral ground because no one particularly lives there, [Ed. in terms of the vast majority of athletes participating in the race] so that does have its advantages and it does have that steeped history.”

“I think if I was a young Pro that it wouldn’t bother me, because it will be Kona the next year, but for certain Pros, maybe some who can’t descend that well [e.g. if held in Nice], they might be struggling.”

Tim Don / Cannes International Triathlon 2019
Photo credit: Activ’ Images
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Will the (age-group) customers buy it?

While IRONMAN is a business, the core of their customers are the amateur participants. Will the attraction of an IRONMAN World Championship outside of Hawaii remain the carrot the Kona currently is? Tim is not sure it will.

“I can see age-groupers only qualifying for Kona, and not bothering for Nice or another one. And the athletes that have qualified as age-groupers and they think they are going to Kona and now are not… that’s a massive change, flights, holidays and all of that jazz. And it’s a massive September, with so many race for amateurs all over the world.

“It’s interesting that it got leaked, and IRONMAN will be surely looking to plug that hole I would have thought.

“On the whole, change is needed. Splitting the men and women? Not a big fan of that, but needs must and I’m sure it will develop more over the next two or three years.”

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