Categorized | Featured, Multi-sport, Sports

Ironman 2015: Race day road closures, Dip ’n’ Dash, Parade of Nations

Some of the Big Island's top triathletes march in the Parade of Nations.  (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Some of the Big Island’s top triathletes march in the Parade of Nations. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Hawaii 24/7 Staff | MEDIA RELEASE

What do a 39-year-old U.S. Congresswoman from Arizona, a 44-year-old firefighter from Spain, a 23-year-old dentist from Brazil and an 82-year-old broadcasting worker from Japan have in common?

They will be joining more than 2,300 athletes Saturday, Oct. 10 in Kailua-Kona for the most iconic endurance event in the world – the 2015 Ironman World Championship presented by GoPro.

Representing 62 countries and territories on six continents, a diverse group of global athletes will compete in the 37th year of the annual Ironman World Championship, which comprises a 2.4-mile open-water swim, 112 miles of cycling and a 26.2-mile run.

Reigning world champion Sebastian Kienle of Germany and three-time World Champion Mirinda Carfrae of Australia will be racing alongside an eclectic group of athletes that includes the American star of blockbuster films “Rudy” and “The Lord of the Rings,” Sean Astin, who is competing on behalf of Run3rd; British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay; Italian CART racing legend and Paralympic handcycle champion Alex Zanardi; U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the first sitting member of Congress to participate in the Ironman World Championship; and American Lew Hollander who, at 85 years old, will be the oldest competitor to ever toe the starting line.

“We continue to be amazed and humbled by the growth of Ironman and the sport of triathlon worldwide,” said Andrew Messick, chief executive officer of Ironman. “All 2,300 athletes who have traveled from around the globe to the sport’s most prestigious stage share one common mission – to cross the finish line on Alii Drive and hear those four magical words – ‘You are an Ironman.’”

With triathletes ranging in age from 19 to 85 having qualified to compete in the World Championship, the average age of 2015 age groupers is 43.2, well above the average age of professional triathletes at 33.7. The overall average age is 42.8.

The United States is the most represented country with 768 competitors, accounting for nearly 32 percent of registrants this year.

Athletes from 48 U.S. states are represented, with the greatest number coming from California (138), Colorado (54), Hawaii (49), Texas (44) and New York (44).

Australia has the second-most athletes competing with 250, followed by Germany (175), Great Britain (148), Canada (114) and Brazil (98). Countries including Portugal, Singapore, Norway, Estonia and Brazil experienced the largest percent growth in athlete representation since 2014.

Additional historical facts and stats on the field competing this year in Kailua-Kona:

* 72 percent of participants (1,717 athletes) are male

* 28 percent of participants (664 athletes) are female, marking the largest female field in history at the Ironman World Championship

* With 664 female participants, there is a more than six percent increase in female participants from last year

* This will be the largest athlete field ever at the Ironman World Championship

* 99 race participants (57 males, 42 females), or four percent of the total field, are professional athletes

* Australia’s Mirinda Carfrae is vying to claim her third consecutive Ironman World Championship victory, a feat last accomplished by Chrissy Wellington of Great Britain in 2009

* After losing the men’s title to Europe in 2014, Australia is out to reassert its dominance in the men’s field with six Ironman World Championship victories in the past eight years

* More than 5,000 volunteers will help make Kona a success

* More than 204,000 registered athletes representing nearly 200 countries and territories competed in Ironman and Ironman 70.3 races this year

* 25 new Ironman and Ironman 70.3 races were established in 2015

The 2015 Ironman World Championship presented by GoPro can be viewed live exclusively at

NBC will air the Ironman World Championship special Saturday, Nov. 14.

Big Island Triathletes

Adam Ankrum

Alexis Ballinger

Erik Basden

Steffen Brocks

Una Burns

Keish Doi

Richard Duncan

Jacob Head

Sandoz Maurer

Vinnie Mikoloski

Susan Nixon

Alejandro Novoa

Travis Obrey

Eddie Ombac

Jean Orlowski

Jay Plasman

Kevin Prater

Shirley Pratt

Sylvia Ravaglia

Billy Rickards

Sal Salmi

William Stedman

Mike Sullivan

Cecilia Weber

Gerd Weber

Thomas Wipp

Chuck Wood


Road closures for race day


Keiki start their dip before they dash. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Keiki start their dip before they dash. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

UnitedHealthcare teams up with IronKids to sponsor Keiki Dip-n-Dash

UnitedHealthcare teamed up with IronKids for the second IronKids Keiki Dip-n-Dash, aimed at inspiring and motivating young people to lead active, positive and healthy lifestyles.

The UnitedHealthcare IronKids Fun Run and Keiki Dip-n-Dash took place Tuesday, Oct. 6 at Kailua Pier and along Alii Drive.

Each athlete received a race bib, T-shirt, goodie bag and finisher medal. The course for “triathletes to be” was along portions of the 2015 Ironman World Championship.

The distances included a Keiki Run (ages 2-14): quarter-mile and one-mile, and Keiki Swim-Run (ages 6-14): 150 yard swim/one-mile run.

UnitedHealthcare presented a $3,000 donation to Kamaaina Kids, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to serving children and their families through quality childcare programs, prior to the race to support youth healthy lifestyles.

“The fun run and IronKids Dip-n-Dash give our community in Kona the opportunity to have fun together, and end their afternoon being active and healthy. Walking, running and swimming are exercises everyone can do to maintain a healthful lifestyle,” said Dave Heywood, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Hawaii, the company’s Medicaid business. “UnitedHealthcare is grateful for the opportunity to partner with Ironman to help our island community live healthier lives.”

This is the fourth year UnitedHealthcare supported IronKids as part of the company’s commitment to help stem the rising tide of childhood obesity through healthy lifestyles. The UnitedHealthcare IronKids 2015 Series features nine events.

Obesity among children and adolescents has almost tripled since 1980, with nearly one in three children being overweight or obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children from low-income and low-education households are three-times more likely to suffer from obesity, which is a leading risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and many cancers, according to America’s Health Rankings, an annual comprehensive assessment of the nation’s health on a state-by-state basis.

Nearly 22 percent of adults and 13 percent of children in Hawaii are estimated to be obese.

“We are thrilled to have a partner in UnitedHealthcare to sponsor these youth events as part of our Ironman series,” said Carola Ross, chief sales officer for Ironman. “The opportunity the IronKids fun runs offer young athletes is tremendous, as these races can be the catalyst for a lifetime of exercise and healthy living.”

“We thank UnitedHealthcare for its support and appreciate the opportunity for our local youth to be part of this fun, exciting IronKids event,” said Mark Nishiyama, vice president, Kamaaina Kids. “We always reinforce the importance of healthy living to our keiki and Dip-n-Dash is a great way to directly connect that message.”

— Find out more:

Post Dip-n-Dash refueling.  (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Post Dip-n-Dash refueling. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)


'God Save the Queen K'  (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

‘God Save the Queen K’ (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Parade of Nations

Following the Dip-n-Dash, IronKids helped lead the Ironman Parade of Nations to kick off the Ironman World Championship events.


‘I Am True’ Day

Ironman once again carried out its ongoing work with athletes and the triathlon community to protect the integrity of racing around the world through outreach activities and testing in Kailua-Kona.

Tuesday marked the sixth annual ‘I Am True’ day. The outreach program is in association with the World Anti-Doping Agency and both share the belief that “every athlete has a right to clean sport.”

‘I Am True’ Day also celebrates the next generation of ‘I Am True’ athletes by bringing its message to the UnitedHealthcare IronKids Keiki Dip-n-Dash and Fun Run children’s events.

The young athletes received anti-doping information and educational materials, which are designed to help them make the right decisions later in their athletic endeavors.

Other outreach activities target the more than 2,300 professional and age-group athletes and 30,000 of their supporters at the 2015 Ironman World Championship.

In the Ironman Village, the ‘I Am True’ team will interact with athletes, coaches and other support personnel to deliver the message of clean sport and share resources, answers and ideas about anti-doping.

Lucy O’Toole, Education Officer from UK Anti-Doping, also is on-site in Kona partnering with Ironman on outreach efforts.

“With the overwhelming support of our professional and age group athletes, along with their coaches and support personnel, we’ve dedicated the resources and engaged our partners in the worldwide anti-doping community to protect the integrity of Ironman and the sport of triathlon,” said Kate Mittelstadt, Director of the Ironman Anti-Doping Program. “Our efforts aim to strategically balance detection and deterrence.”

In addition to outreach efforts, the second key component of the Ironman Anti-Doping Program’s work in relation to the Ironman World Championship is the execution of in- and out-of-competition testing, which includes the collection and analysis of blood and urine samples as part of the its WADA Code-compliant anti-doping program.

All athletes participating in the Ironman World Championship, and all other Ironman events throughout the year, are subject to testing under the Ironman Anti-Doping rules.

Ironman partners with National Anti-Doping Agencies worldwide to ensure shared results, complete and comprehensive athlete profiles and strategic testing plans on professional and age-group athletes.

Analysis of samples collected as part of the Athlete Biological Passport (ABP) during race week in Kona will be analyzed using the mobile laboratory services of the WADA Accredited Salt Lake Medicine Research and Technology Laboratory (SMRTL).

This will ensure immediate and independent scientific oversight and qualified evaluation of the Ironman Anti-Doping Program’s results, ABP, and strategies.

“In Ironman, WADA has a partner that is committed to anti-doping through intelligent testing that aims to test the right athletes for the right substance at the right time. That commitment extends to Ironman’s education and outreach initiatives that educates athletes of their anti-doping rights and responsibilities, as well as why doping is fundamentally the wrong choice,” said WADA Director General David Howman.

— Find out more:


Kailua-Kona Library – Special hours for Ironman week

Kailua-Kona Public Library will be closed race day because the roads and areas in front of it will be shut down, making the library inaccessible for patrons.

The book drops will remain open.

Kailua-Kona Public Library will reopen Tuesday, Oct. 13 at noon and resume its regular public service schedule.


Puuanahulu Landfill, Kealakehe Recycling and Transfer Station closed

The Puuanahulu Landfill in Waikoloa and the Kealakehe Recycling and Transfer Station in Kailua-Kona will be closed all day Saturday, Oct. 10, due to road closures for the Ironman World Championship Triathlon.

The closure at Kealakehe Recycling and Transfer Station will affect all services including Residential Rubbish Disposal, HI5 Redemption, 2-Bin Recycling, Green Waste Recycling, Re-Use Store and Mulch Pick-up.

Alternative services for Residential Rubbish Disposal, HI5 Redemption and 2-Bin Recycling are available at the Keauhou Recycling and Transfer Station.

Regular operations at the Kealakehe Recycling and Transfer Station will resume on Sunday, Oct. 11.

The Puuanahulu Landfill will resume its normal schedule and re-open Monday, Oct. 12.

For further information, contact the Solid Waste Division Administrative Office at 961-8270.


Hawaiian Airlines offers early bicycle check-in

Hawaiian Airlines is offering Ironman World Championship triathletes early bicycle check-in service at Kona Airport the day after the Oct. 10 event.

Competitors who fly out of Kona on Oct. 12 or Oct. 13 may take advantage of the Oct. 11 early bicycle drop-off, which will help Hawaiian transport hundreds of bicycles to Honolulu International Airport and keep them in a secured location until athletes arrive or connect on another flight.

“With the Ironman’s worldwide success and popularity, Hawaiian is pleased to accommodate athletes’ needs through a more flexible check-in process,” said Linda Srabian, managing director – Honolulu hub at Hawaiian Airlines. “The early bicycle drop-off will give athletes peace of mind while also helping us efficiently transport their equipment.”

Last year, Hawaiian transported 794 Ironman bicycles from Kona to Honolulu, more than double the 394 flown in 2005. Historically, however, Monday following the competition sees the biggest spike in volume.

For example, last year, more than half of athletes’ bicycles were transported on that day.

More than 2,000 athletes representing 68 countries and territories competed in last year’s 140.6-mile Ironman World Championship, the event’s 36th year.

There is no extra charge for athletes to drop off their bicycles early at Kona Airport on Oct. 11. Hawaiian Airlines agents will be accepting bicycles from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. at a designated tent at the porter podiums near Hawaiian’s check-in counters.

The standard bicycle check-in fees of $35 for interisland travel, $100 between Hawaii and North America, or $150 for international destinations will be collected at the drop- off site.

— Find out more:


Former world champion Greg Welch interviews a young athlete after the Keiki Dip-n-Dash.  (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Former world champion Greg Welch interviews a young athlete after the Keiki Dip-n-Dash. (Hawaii 24/7 photo by Karin Stanton)

Hollander prepares for Kona through reflection, accountability, and fun.

Lisa Dolbear | Special to Hawaii 24/7

Lew Hollander, 85, has been given some interesting advice in his lifetime.

“When I was a kid, medical pros preached that exercise was bad for you. They said you only have so many heart beats, so don’t waste them.”

The 58-time Ironman finisher will be on the start line of the Ironman World Championship, again this weekend, and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the sport’s oldest competitor—which he set at 82 years of age.

Despite the advances in technology and the sport’s intensified focus on diet, training plans, coaches, and qualifying, the The Terrebonne, Ore. native still sees Ironman as being all about fun.

“The sport has grown over the years, and I love it. They set rules, but it’s a game,” he said.

In that spirit, he doesn’t get caught up with the details of specific workouts or training zones. As he consistently shares with anyone who asks, his training plan boils down to the adage, “move it or lose it.”

“At 85, that takes some doing,” he said. “I’m not unusual. The only thing I have going for me is persistence. I just do what Lew can do and I’m not too concerned about what other folks do better or worse. I look at my reflection and I ask myself, ‘Lew, did you do the best that you could today?”

Hollander isn’t one to riff on his own strengths, but persistence isn’t the only factor in his success. A scientist, father, and hall of famer for endurance horse riding, Hollander has demonstrated a lifetime of tenacity and perseverance—and swears it comes down to a simple piece of glass: “I go by the mirror principal,” he explained. “I look at my reflection and I ask myself, ‘Lew, did you do the best that you could today?”

These days, doing his best means “going anaerobic every day,” and making sure his name is on a registration list to race, lest he spend his time laying on the deck or sleeping.

“If I didn’t have an entry in somewhere, I would not get out of bed in the morning,” he said. “I’ll always do whatever it takes to try and extend my healthy life as long as possible.”

In his youthful days, Hollander played football and baseball, but as many aging athletes learn, there comes a day when the body can no longer comfortably sustain certain movements. He found triathlon to be more inclusive and easier to manage.

Hollander completed his first Ironman race at 55 years old. He also loves ping-pong — a sport he’s still active in.

“Never bet against an old man with a paddle,” he warns.
Or a plan. Though he’s retired, Hollander said he will always be a scientist. “If I need a wheelchair one day, I will design and build the best one,” he assured.

As he heads to the Big Island for the 25th time, once again as the oldest competitor at the legendary event, we asked him what advice he would give to the youngest competitor.

“Persistence. If you fall, and you will, get up and keep going. The winner is at the finish line.”

Despite his success, Hollander still approaches each race with the same fear every triathlete has at some point in his or her racing.

“Why am I here again? I am scared to death. Everyone lined up here is better than I am.”

In the end, his focus on himself is what ultimately carries him through.

“It’s only me I’m accountable to,” he said. “What if I finish? What if I don’t? What is the difference? It’s only me who cares.” Two of the women in his life, his daughter and his girlfriend, might have something to say about that. “She thinks I’m crazy,” Lew says of his significant other. “My daughter is my biggest fan and supporter.”

This year, some might think Hollander is back for redemption — his first DNF ever was during last year’s race.

“Better get used to it, a sign of the times,” he quips, alluding to his older age as he continues to push his body while respecting his limits. As for those childhood doctors? They should see him now — an athlete whose heart is still beating strong; and this year, may it keep time with the rhythmic finish line drum beat along Alii.

Astin chases Big Island dreams

Jennifer Ward Barber | Special to Hawaii 24/7

Sean Astin’s character in Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers delivers one of the most memorable monologues in the film when he’s giving a pep talk to the fading, ring-weary Frodo.

“Mr. Frodo,” says Sam, “folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”

It’s all Frodo needs to keep putting one foot in front of the other on his mission to destroy the Ring.

With the evils of Mordor a distant memory, this Saturday Astin will take on a challenge requiring a similar commitment to that fictional journey: the Ironman World Championship.

Astin made his film debut at age 13 as Mikey in the 1985 film, The Goonies. In 1993 he played the character of Rudy in the 1993 film by the same name, and in the early 2000s, his acting career skyrocketed with the role of Samwise Gamgee in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Astin’s career today includes acting, directing, doing voice work, and producing.

With three daughters — one at college at Harvard and the other two, Elizabeth, 13, and Ella, 10, at home, Astin’s life is full. Somehow, though, he’s found a place for triathlon.

Astin was no stranger to endurance sports; he already had 10 marathons and a few sprint-distance triathlons under his belt. But it was Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillvray (who competed in Kona last year) who got Astin’s wheels turning about doing an Ironman race. (Astin completed Boston this year while raising money for the family of an 8-year-old boy killed in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.)

Upon receiving the invitation to compete as a media athlete, Astin felt compelled to say yes. But before deciding, Astin made a very wise decision: he consulted his family.

“They did not readily agree,” he reflects. “I wouldn’t have done it if they didn’t agree. In a way, I talked them into it.” He said his training has pushed the limits, that it has not been “comfortable” for them. He says their emotionally supportive, but that it’s almost as if he’s been away on a movie shoot.

“Even though I see them at night for a little bit, I’m in no condition to help with homework or interact much. I’m gone for many, many hours at a stretch.” He says finishing will be as much an achievement for them as it is for him. “I think they’ll be happy when they have their dad back,” he says.

Elizabeth, Bella, and Astin’s wife Christine will all be in Kona to watch him finish.

“I feel pretty good now,” Astin said during a conversation we had with him two weeks ago. “A week and a half ago, I was tired,” he added. “Even if I got eight, 10 hours sleep I still felt like I was walking through a fog.”

Astin, 44, said he didn’t expect the mental fatigue that came with training for an event of this magnitude.

“There were times I could do a 90-minute swim and a four-hour bike ride and I was fine, or a six-hour ride and half hour run. What I didn’t realize is, you put three or four of those days together and by day five, someone puts a glass of water in front of you and you just stare at it for two minutes, not remembering that you’re supposed to drink it!”

He says that without the guidance of his coach Matt Dixon (of purplepatch fitness and an Ironman U Master Coach), he would’ve been lost. “Matt tried to keep things simple, and he did, but even the simple stuff—it’s a lot to know,” Astin, a rookie to the full-distance, reflected. “You have to be in your head for six, seven hours—thinking about your stroke, how you’re turning the pedals, your body position, and how you’re rotating—it’s absolutely exhausting.”

The Ironman-training induced fatigue is only one of the monsters that Astin had to fight on his way to the start line.

“The biggest challenge without question was the open water,” Astin said, echoing the fears of thousands of rookie triathletes out there. He cites the Tower 26 open-water swim program in Santa Monica as his savior: “If I’m able to make the swim in time on Saturday it will be because of them and coach Gerry (Rodrigues),” he said.

Astin recalls a particularly dismal day at the beach early on in his training.

“I was born in Santa Monica and I was pretty sure I was going to die in Santa Monica,” Astin recalls. “When I got to the breakwater, my body froze. My brain said ‘go’ but my body was absolutely paralyzed. It was the most embarrassing, discouraging thing. I was depressed for two days.”

Later that day, Astin got a call from Rodrigues, who was honest with his protege and told him he was worried Astin wasn’t ready.

The next day, Astin went out into the water with his friend beside him in a kayak, dove through the surf, and swam around a few buoys, and gave himself a pep talk. At the following week’s group swim, he jumped up with the main group and swam the entire distance.

“When I got out of the water Gerry was smiling at me,” he says. “The swim was the most painful, and yet the most rewarding part of this whole process.”

The L.A-based actor has been training solidly for four months under Matt Dixon’s guidance. The two worked closely together to establish realistic goals, given Astin’s body composition and natural ability—or lack of ability as he says.

“We set a bar for what was possible without getting hurt. Now I’m just waiting like a little chick for him to drop the instructions to me,” he says regarding his final week of training.

Though he had a cross-country coach in high school, and as an actor has had his share of personal trainers, Astin says being coached by Dixon has opened his eyes to a whole new world. “The level of expertise and the coaching technology that exists around this sport is so advanced,” he says.

Though he has always watched the Kona broadcast and admired the athletes, he said he didn’t truly appreciate it until he was trying to learn the sport himself.

At the beginning of their tenure, Astin says Dixon compared his swimming to a drunken sailor’s and his riding to a gorilla’s. When reflecting now on the experience of being coached, Astin speaks eloquently.

“His sense of purpose and my sense of mission complemented each other,” he said. “And I always felt safe.”

As someone who was experiencing the unique coach-athlete relationship for the first time, Astin is passionate.

“All he had to do was indicate that I might not be where I need to be, and then all of a sudden he’s activated me,” he says. “You can tell he really loves it, and that ennobles my effort. Why? Because it’s painful. It’s painful all of the time.”

Astin says Dixon was also remarkably sensitive to his charge’s packed schedule. “Navigating those waters can be prohibitive… it’s the reason why a lot of people don’t do this sport. But I have a guy, who knows when I have to jump on a plane to go give an impromptu speech. Every time I open up my purplepatch plan, the workouts feel appropriate. It feels like you have someone in your corner.”

In July, Astin did Ironman 70.3 Vineman as a build-up race and to test his progress. Though overall it was a confidence builder, there were a few bumps in the winery-lined roads.

“When the horn sounded I had a panic attack in the water,” he says. “I couldn’t catch my breath. It was probably 90 seconds but it felt like 15 minutes.” Astin says he thought about all the support he’d been given, and thought “how am I going to look myself in the mirror?”

He flipped over and started swimming, and, going into survival mode, made the swim. Despite rather long transitions (“I was outside of my body,” he says, “it was a new thing—confusion ensued”), the bike ride was better.

A few back problems on the bike, however, made for an unusually painful run.

In the middle of the race, on the side of the road trying to release his lower back by laying on a rock, Astin reached back into his training “bank” for the resolve to move forward.

“I remembered one moment in training that changed my life as a triathlon person,” he said.

It was late at night, Astin recalls, and he was determined to get my training in despite a busy day. He did a swim, a 20-mile ride, and then was going to do a mini run, when his back seized up, just as it did at Vineman.

“I basically walk-ran the three miles. When I got to my car I said ‘you just can’t end this session tonight, this way. It’s just not OK. It has to be better, he says.

So what did he do? He went out and did a second 5k—which was not on the plan, and which meant he couldn’t see his kids before they went to bed. And at mile four, his back released.

“When I got to that point at Vineman, I was like no, I’ve been here before, I know what this feels like. I’m not going to let it stop me.” And sure enough, his back released and he was able to finish.

Astin has never attended a full Ironman, and is looking forward to Kona with great expectations. “Everyone talks about the energy of the island,” he says. “It’s easy for an actor from Hollywood to get all granola-y and spiritual, but it really is a powerful place—and the people are powerful.”

He says that next to finishing the swim, he’s most looking forward to experiencing the natural environment with his family.

In closing, Astin says the experience of training for the Ironman World Championship, and meeting so many people through the sport, has left him in awe. “I have total admiration for all of these athletes who’ve qualified for this race. I was invited to participate and have been humbled completely. I’ve been forced to confront what my own limitations are, and I’ve been privileged to be next to talent, and close to such generosity,” he says.

In fact, Astin jokes he might have an Oscar moment when he finishes.

“It’ll take everything in me not to stop and thank like six different people!” (He mentioned his bike sponsor Quintanaroo, EXOS physical therapy, and his purplepatch squad, including pro triathlete Sarah Piampiano who helped him immensely during a four-day cycling block on the Big Island in August.)

Come Saturday, I think all of the spectators will be happy to have Astin take the proverbial stage—and perhaps to share it once again with another athlete who just so happens to go by the nickname “Frodo.”

— Find out more:

Wanda Group acquires World Triathlon Corp for $650 million


Dalian Wanda Group Co., Ltd., one of the leading Chinese private conglomerates, reached an agreement in August to acquire 100 percent of the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) for $650 million.

The acquisition by Wanda heralds yet another landmark investment in the sports sector following Infront Sports & Media and Atletico Madrid.

This acquisition will bring a top international competition to China for the first time and marks a key milestone in the development of China’s sports industry.

Following the acquisition, Wanda will become the largest sports operating company in the world.

Triathlons are regarded as the pinnacle of world sport. Officially included in the Olympic Games, they are comprised of three disciplines, swimming, cycling, and running, completed in succession. The schedule is long and grueling, and tests athlete’s fitness, stamina and skill, making it one of the most stimulating, challenging and watchable extreme sports in the world.

The Ironman is a triathlon completed within a strict time limit, and is a popular global sporting event that is split into different levels according to age and ability. In the US alone, more than 480,000 people participate in triathlon events, with more than 4,400 separate races held each year.

WTC is headquartered in Tampa, Fla. It is the world’s largest operator of Ironman events and the most well-known Ironman brand; as the owner of the sporting brand and the operator of the competition, WTC accounts for a 91 percent global market share of long-distance triathlon events.

WTC has organized, promoted and licensed triathlon events for 37 years, and owns five exclusive triathlon brands, operating at least 250 events every year around the world.

Its flagship brands are Ironman (3.9km swim + 180km cycle + 42km run) and Ironman 70.3 (1.9km swim + 90km cycle + 21.1km run) and are the world’s largest competition participation platforms, holding more than 130 races with more than 230,000 competitors.

IWTC’s gross revenue has risen at a CAGR of 40 percent for four consecutive years, while net profit has grown at 40 percent a year.

Due to its strong brand and unique business model, the company is expected to maintain a high visibility and shows fast-growing future business prospects.

Wanda’s acquisition of WTC achieves multiple strategic goals.

Firstly, it expands the industry scale of Wanda sports. At present, major global sports industries are largely situated in Europe and America, and acquisitions are the only way for most companies to scale up efficiently.

After the acquisition of WTC, Wanda will become the largest sports company in the world in terms of scale.

Secondly, the acquisition enables Wanda to secure core resources and assets in the global sports industry. Triathlons are a jewel in the crown of world endurance sports, and as WTC exclusively owns the major global triathlon brands, the acquisition provides Wanda with direct control over its core resources.

Thirdly, the acquisition completes the formation of a comprehensive sports business for Wanda. Wanda has built a full industry value chain that includes event organizing, athlete representation, event marketing and rebroadcasting, which will greatly enhance Wanda’s influence on the global sports stage and accelerate Wanda’s strategic advancement in the industry.

Triathlons are on the cusp of explosion in China, with a bright future ahead. A large proportion of triathlons in Europe and America are comprised of middle-class participants that are around 35 to 40 years old.

As China enters the ranks of middle income countries, people are paying increasing attention to physical fitness and spiritual fulfillment, and triathlon’s unique charm and challenge is set to attract a large number of people.

According to senior sports circles, China has millions of cyclists and tens of millions of runners, so the potential for triathlon participation is huge.

Triathlons also provide additional benefits to participating cities. Compared with marathons, triathlons are longer and more complicated, but can also be more appreciated, and can better present more of the host city, which helps to promote tourism.

Statistics show that for a small triathlon with 1,000 participants, there are on average three friends or family members that come to support each participant. People are likely to stay for around four days and three nights, which translates into 5000 hotel rooms being used in the host city.

A triathlon brand owned by Wanda will become a much sought after event for Chinese cities.

It is understood that the entire management of WTC have opted to stay with the company and signed a long-term contract with Wanda after the acquisition.

During the acquisition process, WTC management firmly recognized Wanda’s brand strength and its development strategy for the sports industry, and were optimistic about the development of triathlons in China.

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