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Sunday’s Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon marks anniversary of athlete’s drowning.
Derek Valentino wasn’t going to stop with one triathlon.
The 40-year-old from Prospect Park, Pa., was going to push himself to become a stronger swimmer, better bike rider, faster runner.
“His goal was to be an Ironman,” Michele Valentino said of her husband, who envisioned himself competing at the most demanding level of the grueling, three-event, endurance sport.
Instead, Sunday will mark the one-year anniversary of Derek Valentino’s death by drowning in the Schuylkill in the Philadelphia Insurance Triathlon’s amateur sprint distance race.
Sunday also is the date of this year’s main-event triathlon in Fairmount Park, where more than 2,500 athletes are expected to compete in a 0.93-mile swim, 24.8-mile bike ride, and 6.2-mile run.
Michele Valentino called the coinciding dates “kind of a bittersweet thing,” because of her late husband’s love for his new sport and sense of belonging to a large, loyal community of triathlon enthusiasts.
“Derek loved being part of that,” Michele Valentino said.
There also will be a bittersweet element to this weekend’s events for race officials and participants, according to Rich Adler, CEO of Philadelphia Triathlon L.L.C., which owns and operates the races.
While the various competitions mark the highlight of the year for many area endurance-sport athletes – with the main event serving as a popular stop on a growing professional triathlon tour – the anniversary of the tragedy will create a sad and somber counterweight to what usually is a celebratory atmosphere.
“The triathlon community is unique,” said Adler, who plans to commemorate Valentino’s death during Sunday’s award ceremonies. “There was such an outpouring of support for the family when this happened, and there continues to be concern and sympathy that something like this happened to one of our own.”
Read more: Philly.com