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This is part of our annual Multisport Movers & Shakers awards, highlighting the people you should know about who are helping to shape the sport in the year to come. Read about all of our 2022 Multisport Movers & Shakers.
Diana Bertsch still thinks about the time in 1995 when she got to cross the finish line in Kona after qualifying for the Ironman World Championship as a Hawaii resident. If was a life-changing experience. “I think that’s what continues to drive me today, knowing what that means and what our athletes put into it,” she said.
Bertsch first saw the famous race in person back in 1990, when she was in Hawaii for vacation. She got up early on her last day on the island and stood on the sea wall to watch the start. With no knowledge of what it would entail, she thought, “I have to do this some day.”
After she moved to Hawaii, she started volunteering at the race and eventually took an assistant job doing athlete services before working in hospitality and heading up nearby resorts and tourism projects. And then, another Ironman opportunity came that changed her life again. In 2003, she was asked to come on as the race director for the Ironman World Championship event.
“I had absolutely no idea what I was doing,” she said. She had a staff of three and worked around the clock to get everything done.
Now, 18 years later, Ironman’s world championship races have grown and expanded into new formats and regions—and Bertsch has been a key part of that expansion as the senior vice president of world championship events with 25-30 people working on her team (along with local operations staff). “I’m just this little piece of this huge machine and it takes everybody to come together,” she said.
And 2022 is going to be the biggest yet for Bertsch and her team.
In May, they will head up the delayed 2021 Ironman World Championship, the first ever outside of Hawaii, in St. George, Utah. Then, it’s a two-day 2022 Ironman World Championship back in Kona, with its own set of logistical challenges, and then a two-day 70.3 World Championship back in St. George. “Next year is a big year,” she said—with nearly 15,000 athletes competing in an Ironman brand world championship race.
It’s a daunting challenge, but one that’s also an opportunity, she said. It was a challenge when they decided to rotate the 70.3 world championship—something they had never done before—and they needed to create a new venue and experience and operations from scratch each year. And then it was a challenge when they moved to a two-day format for the 70.3 worlds and the team had to rally after that first long day. Bertsch was instrumental in turning the 70.3 world championship into the behemoth it has become. Now both those things are much loved by athletes.
For her team, the goal is to make every event the best event it can be for all the athletes who worked so hard to get there. For the athlete, this is what they’ve been working towards and they’re never going to forget that moment that Bertsch and her team deliver them. “Whether it’s the first time or the 10th time, our goal is to provide that experience they’re hoping and dreaming for,” she said.
“We’re in the dream business,” she said—and there’s no better business to be in.