Saturday, June 7, 2008

ITU Worlds Age-Group Race Turned Into Du

Close to 2000 age-group athletes began today expecting to tackle a tough 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run at the 2008 age-group world championships. But even before the first wave started, race officials shortened the swim to 1100 meters as the water temperature was measured at a cool 12.5 degrees Celsius.

First up were the Corporate Challenge teams who started bright at early at 6:30am. A number of local companies entered athletes in the individual and team relays events. Once the corporate teams were off, the men’s and women’s athletes with a disability (AWAD) took to the course.

The first age-group Olympic distance wave was the 18-19 women and 20-24 women who raced into the chilly waters of English Bay. A few more age categories were started before the winds picked up, creating extremely choppy conditions. Race organizers, technical delegates for the event, and in consultation with the event medical director, made the decision to cancel the swim portion for the remaining waves. The safety of the athletes is paramount and race officials were not willing to compromise the health and well-being of the athletes.

The final age-group wave to enter the water was the 45-49 women and 50-54 women. Every wave after that was turned into a duathlon consisting of a 3-kilometer run, 40-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run. The affected waves were all women over 55 and all men.

In all, 672 athletes entered the water while the remaining 1030 completed the Duathlon. As of now, there are no announced changes to tomorrow’s under23 and elite races. If there are any changes to the race distance, they will be race day decisions. As this is a world championship and the final event with Olympic qualifying points at stake, organizers will endeavour to keep the elite race unchanged. However, the safety of the athletes is critical and will not be undermined. Cold weather has been the story of the event since racing began on Thursday morning. A number of hypothermia cases were reported yesterday and extra medical facilities were put in place yesterday in anticipation for this weekend’s race.

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