Confusion surrounds the sanctioning of Sunday’s IRONMAN 70.3 Ireland event which saw the tragic deaths of two of the competitors. Ivan Chittenden and Brendan Wall, who both lost their lives during the swim leg of the race, were pulled out of the water in what was described by Triathlon Ireland as “adverse conditions”.
As the aftermath of the incident has unfolded, the national governing body Triathlon Ireland and race organisers IRONMAN have offered contrasting accounts of the safety assessments that took place prior to the swim start, with both parties disagreeing on the issue of sanctioning the event.
In an initial statement released by Triathlon Ireland, it was explained that Triathlon Ireland Technical Officials made it clear that the federation was unable to sanction the race due to the results of a water safety assessment. However, in a new statement released by the race organiser, IRONMAN have stated that this decision was not relayed to officials until after the swim had been completed.
“It was not possible to sanction the race”
In their statement, Triathlon Ireland described the circumstances in which they could not sanction the event, as the governing body explained that having reviewed the conditions in line with normal practice, their Technical Officials confirmed to the race organisers that the swim had not passed the required safety assessment.
“For the Ironman Cork event, in line with normal practice, Triathlon Ireland Technical Officials attended before the start of the race to review the conditions and carry out a water safety assessment. Due to adverse conditions on the day, Triathlon Ireland Technical Officials confirmed to the race organisers that it was not possible to sanction the race.”
IRONMAN, on the other hand, said that whilst the federation representatives did tell the onsite IRONMAN officials that they would be unable to sanction the event, this did not happen until several hours after the swim had been completed.
“IRONMAN works in collaboration with National Federations around the world as we organize over 150 IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 events annually. As such, federation representatives were present during the event and performed their duties. Several hours after the swim was completed, they communicated to the onsite IRONMAN Ireland officials that they would not approve the sanctioning for the event.”
“Water conditions were safe for the swim to take place”
Additionally, IRONMAN also said that after deciding to postpone the race and delay the start by 24 hours due to unsuitable racing conditions on the Saturday, their officials and specific swim safety team deemed the water conditions to be safe for the swim to go ahead on the Sunday.
“Weather conditions for this past weekend’s IRONMAN Ireland, Cork and IRONMAN 70.3 Ireland, Cork were monitored carefully. On Saturday morning IRONMAN Ireland officials and swim safety experts declared the swim course unsuitable for racing and decided to reschedule the IRONMAN 70.3 triathlon for Sunday, alongside IRONMAN Ireland, Cork to provide a safer race for athletes.
“On the morning of Sunday 20 August, IRONMAN Ireland officials and the specific on-swim safety team carried out all standard safety protocol checks that are completed at every race and determined water conditions were safe for the swim to take place. While conditions were improved from Saturday, out of an abundance of safety, it was decided to shorten the swim course for both races.”
Both IRONMAN and Triathlon Ireland emphasises that whilst the investigation was still underway, their priority remained to be providing support and care to the friends and family of the victims.