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Ironman’s announcement that the company is “exploring every option” for the Ironman World Championship event, including “potentially taking the race out of Kona,” has provoked strong discussion from triathletes around the world. Though the Hawaii race originated in Oahu in 1978, it has been held in the small island village of Kailua-Kona since 1981.
For some, Kona is synonymous with Ironman itself; for others, it’s a dated idea and logistical boondoggle for those not traveling from the United States. Many have called for the world championship event to move a rotating format like the 70.3 World Championships, which in recent years has been held in South Africa, France, and the U.S. Support for rotating host cities has grown during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the postponement and cancellation of the world championship race three times in the last two years in response to strict travel restrictions from Hawaii. Meanwhile, other Ironman races— including the 2021 70.3 World Championships in St. George, Utah—have gone on in locations with fewer logistical restrictions.
At this time, it’s not clear whether Ironman is considering a temporary or permanent move from Kona; they also have not revealed what locations could be considered as new hosts of the world championship event. That, of course, didn’t stop triathletes from speculating.
After the announcement, many athletes took to social media to share their feelings on the possibility of a non-Kona world championship event. Responses varied from strong support for rotating host cities to an insistence that the race (and its legacy) stays rooted in its Hawaiian home.
Twitter reactions to Ironman’s announcement:
never, never, never .. not for the money! kona a myth .. hawaii is the cradle of ironman .. it is a feeling .. think of 100,000 who have this goal! 🏊🏽🚴🏽♂️🏃🏻🤙🏼@CEOIronman @IRONMANtri #Triathlon https://t.co/MIiPC5yquF
— S E 7 E N 🤙🏼 (@SchittHeppnz) September 16, 2021
It sounds like @IRONMANtri have seen sense and are seriously considering moving the World Champs from Kona. Nostalgia should not dominate this decision, Actually having a World Champs should be the priority now. Much better venues to choose from. What would your pick be?
— The Brick Session (@thebricksession) September 17, 2021
My take on Kona. The race is iconic, but outside of the US it’s not romanticised in the same way, and most athletes I know who have been say it’s overrated. They should still hold a race there, but it’s time for the worlds to start rotating to areas more accessible/affordable
— Simon Olney (@Simon_Olney) September 16, 2021
While Lanzarote, a bit of history, and hot, windy island racing might be the romantic choice, if Ironman do move the World Championship, a couple of things seem certain:
A. It will go to the highest bidder*
B. It will be a two-day event**
*Bad idea. **Good idea.
— Tim Heming (@Timheming) September 17, 2021
Would it really be that terrible to move the Ironman world champs to a course besides Kona?
Besides the fact that it's not that great of a course, the cost of getting and staying there presents a huge barrier to entry.
— Doug 〽️acLean (@djmacandcheeze) September 14, 2021
I honestly thought that by now Ironman would have bought up a chunk of land somewhere and built a permanent ironman distance stadium. With some near-replica race course features to Kona. Golf architects often re-create classic holes elsewhere.
— The Streak Podcast (@streakpodcast) September 17, 2021
Facebook reactions to Ironman’s announcement:
BREAKING: Ironman CEO Andrew Messick said today the organization is "exploring every option" for the Ironman World Championship event: "That includes potentially taking the race out of Kona.”