Triathlon News & Notes: Lake Placid in Question, New Ironman in Alaska, and Chris Nikic Wins an ESPY

A look at some of the buzz we’ve picked up in the sport over the past seven days.

Photo: Photo by Jinhee Lee/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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Concerns over water quality at Olympic triathlon venue

Earlier this week, Bloomberg Business posted a concerning report about the water quality in the Tokyo Bay, which happens to be the swim venue for the Olympic triathlon as well as the open-water swimming events. Noting that the city of Tokyo has taken drastic steps to remedy a 2019 E. coli outbreak in the water that forced the cancelation of the swim portion of the Paratiathlon test event there (the bacteria was found in the water then was at more than twice the limit set by the International Triathlon Union), the piece says that officials are confident that their screening system will provide a secure environment to hold the games. However, it also reported that the water in Tokyo currently “stinks” and that the main issue is rooted in pollution connected to Tokyo’s old-fashioned, combined sewer system. The current concern harkens back to similar water-quality worries at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, which was played down by athletes (somewhat relatedly, Reuters reported that, among 380 athletes in the sailing events in Rio, only one complained that the water quality had affected their performance.)

RELATED: On the Ground at the Games That Almost Didn’t Happen

Tri-Battle Royale to be broadcast live on Sunday

What began as chatter on Instagram between long-distance stars Lionel Sanders of Canada and Germany’s Jan Frodeno has transformed into a fully produced event, complete with live feed from motorcycles, helicopter,  and drones, plus a potential world record attempt. The Tri-Battle Royale, during which Frodeno and Sanders will face off in a one-on-one iron-distance race through the Allgäu region of southern Germany, will be broadcast live beginning on Sunday at 9 a.m. local time. On Friday, both competitors participated in a media event during which they emerged on camera in boxer-style hooded robes and rode their bikes on trainers for a live Zwift event, while answering questions from the media. “We want to win, but we also want to see what’s possible on this course,” said Frodeno of his race strategy. “We’ll be working together on Sunday…and then the knife fight will begin.”

The future of Ironman Lake Placid in question

Officials in Lake Placid, New York, a longtime favorite location among many triathletes, have shared their hesitation to renew their contract with Ironman, which ends next year.  In an interview with the Adirondack Reporter, Jim McKenna, the CEO of the Regional Office for Sustainable Development (ROOST), said that despite the popularity of Ironman Lake Placid among triathletes, the local community as a whole isn’t as enamored by the event. “The event certainly does have some inconveniences for the residents,” McDowell said. “Number one was road closures. Number two, it’s been a 22-year run at this point and there’s a feeling that half the community loves it, half the community is unsure about it.” The decision to renew, which was brought up in a recent town hall, will continue to be discussed, as factors including the environmental, economic, and community impact will be evaluated, according to McDowell.

Juneau, Alaska eyed by Ironman as a potential race venue

While Lake Placid’s future hangs in the balance, a new location may soon be added to the Ironman roster: Alaska. According to local news reports, the Ironman Group recently reached out to Travel Juneau to explore hosting a full Ironman race in the state’s capital city. If the deal goes through, it will be the first Ironman-branded event in Alaska and potentially take place in-and-around Auke Lake on Aug. 8, 2022.

Katie Zaferes opens up about the loss of her father

In what will likely be the sentimental story of the triathlon events at the Tokyo Olympics, Katie Zaferes opened up about the sudden death of her father, Bill Hursey, in April. In a chat with Glenn Clark Radio, Zaferes narrated the aftermath of processing her shock and grief while simultaneously competing for a spot on the Olympic team. “The worst fear I ever had was losing my parents,” she said. “You know you’re going to lose your parents eventually, but not as early. With my dad, he’s so intertwined in my triathlon career and journey.” Zaferes also mentions racing just a month after his death when she wasn’t emotionally ready, and how she will celebrate with ice cream when she finishes the race, a tradition that honors her dad.

Triathlon stars head to XTERRA Beaver Creek on Saturday

Stars of the off-road triathlon scene, including Josiah Middaugh and Mauricio Mendez, will face off with traditional road triathletes like Sam Long and Eric Lagerstrom in Beaver Creek, Colorado for XTERRA Beaver Creek on July 17. It will be the first race for Long after his course record-setting win at Ironman Coeur d’Alene, and a return to the mountains where he made his elite debut five years ago when he was a 20-year-old college student at Colorado University Boulder. “Racing XTERRA Beaver Creek against the best of the best is a tall feat when I have been focused on the on-road scene, but I want to see how I stack up,” said Long, who last raced XTERRA in 2018.

On the women’s side, Kiwi Samantha Kingsford looks to pick up on her dominating 2019 season on the XTERRA circuit where she won in Brazil, Victoria, and Mexico. She’ll be challenged by perennial favorite Suzie Snyder, who won in Beaver Creek when the race last took place there in 2019.

Witsup platform closes with final podcast

Witsup, a popular multimedia platform that has focused on women in triathlon for the last decade, is shutting down. In a heartfelt and honest post, Witsup founder Stef Hanson wrote, “I have come to the incredibly tough decision to close down Witsup and move on.⁠ From day one, Witsup was a fight for improving the media landscape and the community for women in triathlon and sport, and we achieved so much in this space. But, for me, I now need to move on and find what lights my fire again.” Hanson released a goodbye podcast this week featuring current and past stars of the sport including Mirinda Carfrae, Belinda Granger, Meredith Kessler, Caroline Steffen, Linsey Corbin, Rachel Joyce, and Liz Blatchford.

Chris Nikic warms hearts, draws laughs, as he accepts Jimmy V Award for Perseverance

In one of the more touching moments of the ESPYs program last Saturday, Chris Nikic, the first person with Down syndrome to complete an Ironman, accepted the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance. After being introduced by Tim Tebow, Nikic celebrated his honor with a little dance and a touching and funny speech, where he said, “I am an Ironman, Adidas athlete, public speaker, author, and as you can see ladies, I am adorable, single and available!” Nikic, 21, also touched on his impressive journey, saying, “Three years ago, I was 18, overweight, out of shape, excluded and isolated. But my dream was to be like you, to be included, to be independent, and to marry an amazing woman like my mom.” (You can watch the full speech here.)

Podcast Notes

  • The Triathlete Hour showcases Summer Rappaport, who will be racing for Team U.S.A. in Tokyo next month. She chats about training through the pandemic and her Olympic goals.
  • Sam Long joins Triathlon Taren fresh off his win at Ironman Coeur D’Alene. He shares his journey in the sport so far and what’s next.
  • On the Zwift PowerUp Tri podcast, Lionel Sanders gets real about his disappointing finish at Ironman Coeur D’Alene last month, and about how he hopes to improve in upcoming races, including this weekend’s Tri Battle.
  • ProTri News recaps Ironman Ecuador 70.3, previews the Tri Battle and talks strategy for the mixed relay event at the Olympics.
  • On the TriDot Triathlon podcast, coaches John Mayfield and Elizabeth James offer insight for handling heat, humidity, wind, thunderstorms, and chilly temperatures on race day, plus tips for turning bad weather into a competitive advantage on race day.
  • Elite coach Joel Filliol (who coaches Olympic medal favorites like France’s Vincent Luis, Spain’s Mario Mola, and Katie Zaferes) heads to Fitter Radio to talk about Tokyo and his move to Triathlon Australia.
  • Popular podcast guest Alistair Brownlee hits TriNation this week, where he talks about his Relentless book release and running as a candidate for the International Olympic Committee Athlete Commission.

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Jan Frodeno Reflects on His Final Ironman World Championship

Immediately after finishing 24th place at his final Ironman World Championships, the Olympic medalist (and three-time IMWC winner) explains what his race in Nice meant to him.