Sunday’s Ironman will be Penticton’s last

Penticton opts to join the Challenge Family of races in 2013, ending the city's 30-year relationship with Ironman

  • Aug. 23, 2012 12:00 p.m.
Celebrating the announcement of Penticton's inclusion in the Challenge Family of races Thursday morning were (left to right) Mayor Dan Ashton

Celebrating the announcement of Penticton's inclusion in the Challenge Family of races Thursday morning were (left to right) Mayor Dan Ashton

Nearly every city has its own iconic event that becomes a part of its community’s identity. Vancouver has the Pacific National Exhibition, Calgary has the Stampede, and for the last several decades, Penticton has had Ironman Canada. For Penticton however, this is about to change.

After receiving a number of presentations from both World Triathlon Corporation, which owns the licence to Ironman Canada, and the Challenge Family, which holds a number of iron-distance triathlons internationally, city council made a decision on the future of triathlon in Penticton.

Subaru Ironman Canada will end its run in Penticton with its 30th annual race on Sunday. The event next year will be the 2013 Challenge Penticton.

The Penticton race is the newest addition to the Challenge Family series of races, which have events in New Zealand, the Canary Islands, Spain and Germany. The Challenge Roth race in Germany is one of the largest long-distance triathlons in the world. The Penticton race represents the Challenge Family’s first foray into North America.

“It’s great that both races, Roth and Penticton, were about the same age and founded around the same time under the same umbrella of challenge,” said the Challenge Family’s CEO, Felix Walchshöfer at a press conference Thursday morning. “Indeed the races in Roth and Penticton have so many similarities: Community driven, athlete focused, and we are very, very happy to be able to work with these two iconic races.”

However, the WTC may not be ready to give up its Penticton Ironman Canada race.

The City of Penticton had a contract with former Ironman Canada owner Graham Fraser to hold the event through 2014. However, earlier this summer, the WTC recalled its licences, which Frasier then relinquished. While the WTC holds the licence to the race, the city’s contract was with Fraser. As Fraser was no longer involved with the race, council felt free to look at other options — namely, the Challenge Family.

Online magazine Slowtwitch reports that the WTC could be looking to give the licence back to Fraser, which would then put the city in breach of contract. However, Ashton said of the matter, “The dispute is between the licensee, which was Graham (Fraser), and (the WTC), it has nothing to do with us.”

Kelly Zwarych, a Calgary-based triathlete and sponsor of the Penticton event, said should the event go forward, due to the fact it’s the first Challenge event in North America, the race could benefit from added attention from the Challenge Family promoting their newest race.

“The Challenge series is going to want to get better exposure into North America, so they might actually encourage more of the European pros and other pros to come here, so that’s good if your looking for more pros.”

Mayor Dan Ashton said after hearing presentations from both the WTC and Challenge Family, city council debated the performance, perception and community benefits of each event.

In the end, council unanimously decided on the Challenge Family.

With the Challenge Family agreement, Ashton said, both the community and the athletes greatly benefit, noting the emphasis would go back onto the athletes. As well, he said the new deal would provide a greater boost to the city’s economy.

“The vast majority of the proceeds stay in Penticton, so it’s not leaving Penticton anymore,” he said. “This becomes Penticton’s race.”

While he was unable to provide any figures on the deal with the Challenge Family, he said it was a vastly better deal for the community.

As well, said Ashton, the event will help revitalize iron-distance triathlon in Penticton.

“Before, there was only a handful of races that these people could attend, now there’s 100 and some, and Penticton was rated at one of the two top races in the world, now we’re four, five or six,” Ashton continued. “Now we have to bring that back. You talk to the athletes, nobody offers what we offer here. We just have to shine it and polish it up again,  and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Kevin Cutjar is a local triathlete and triathlon coach who sat on the special task force council put together to help advise them on their decision. For Cutjar, it was an easy choice.

“The move to the Challenge Family is a positive thing for the triathlon community and definitely for Penticton,” he said. “The model for the business aspect of it is definitely a better deal than the city’s ever seen.”

When the Roth race made the transition to the Challenge Family, it saw a slight dip in attendance before it skyrocketed, said Ashton. However, he expects a seamless transition in Penticton, both due to the community and the city’s natural appeal to triathletes.

For longtime volunteer Sharon Hickey, the community of Penticton was what made the Ironman event special, not the Ironman brand-name.

“All of the athletes came to this race because of what volunteers did in this community,” she said. “The volunteer support, the event we put on, the beautiful scenery, there were countless times you heard athletes talk about loving to be out on the run and the bike because of the scenery here in the Okanagan and Similkameen that they drive through and ride through. I think we weren’t just an Ironman: we were a place they came to do a triathlon.”

Hickey remained optimistic about the future of triathlon in Penticton.

“I think this community can move forward and do something without the WTC,” she said. “If there is something that is done in this community to do with a triathlon event in Penticton, I think the community will come forward and step up to it.”

The new race will take place on Aug. 25, 2013 and will be different than the Ironman event, featuring a week-long festival, wave starts, relay teams and a $61,500 prize purse, over twice as large as this year’s Ironman purse of $25,000. Registration for next year’s Challenge Penticton opens at 9 a.m. Monday at the South Okanagan Events Centre box office.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

The Keremeos Grist Mill and Gards is preparing for another season of their Pantry Share program, distributing monthly packages with preserves like the one taken in the photo above. (Grist Mill Facebook)
Shares in heritage community garden program go on sale

The Grist Mill and Gardens in Keremeos is bringing back its Pantry Share for 2021

Expect cold weather and snow over the weekend. (Submitted photo)
Prepare for subzero weekend in South Okanagan

Expect some snow to start falling Saturday night and into Sunday

Skaha Middle School
Arrest made in indecent acts near Penticton schools

A 32-year-old man was arrested and released on strict conditions, say police

Flooding has become a reality for many communities in the Okanagan Valley as the region faces more extreme weather storms, blamed on the impact of climate change. (File photo)
Okanagan high target for spring flooding

Higher snowpack and mild winter precipitation levels raise concerns for Canada’s insurance industry

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A COVID-19 exposure has been confirmed at Black Mountain Elementary in Kelowna Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. (Google Image)
Another COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Kelowna school

Interior Health confirmed an exposure at Black Mountain Elementary School Saturday

Members of BCEHS Station 343 in Lake Country receive a donation of treats and wine from the community in December. (Contributed)
‘Unexpected and heartwarming’: Okanagan community supports paramedics

Cards, discounts, treats, more given to Lake Country paramedics in sign of support

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

The North Okanagan Naturalists' Club completed its annual swan and eagle counts Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021. (Claude Rioux - NONC photo)
North Okanagan bird count shows decrease in swan and eagle numbers

Trumpeter swans were down 61 per cent from last year’s count; eagles down 14 per cent

Okanagan Indian Band Chief Byron Louis has served as the band’s chief since his first of six electoral wins in 1991. (File photo)
Okanagan Indian Band seeks nominations for upcoming election

A new OKIB chief and council will be elected March 30, 2021

Lake Country firefighters helped deliver a healthy newborn baby Thursday, Jan. 21, 2020. (Pixabay)
Lake Country firefighters help deliver baby boy

Firefighters from the Winfield hall assisted with the birth of a healthy newborn Thursday morning

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

An individual at Rutland Senior Secondary school has tested positive for COVID-19. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Individual at Central Okanagan school tests positive for COVID-19

Authorities say the person is self-isolating at home with support from local health teams

Most Read