Well known athletes in the triathlon world are starting to put their names in for the inaugural Challenge Penticton.
An announcement was made in front of 350 supporters at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre Tuesday night.
It was there that local triathletes Janelle Morrison and Jeff Symonds made their commitment known that they would compete on Aug. 25/13. Joining Morrison and Symonds will be German Lothar Leder, a three-time champion of the Olympic distance and five-time winner of Challenge Roth and Belinda Granger, a pro triathlete of more than 10 years. Chris (Macca) McCormack will be an ambassador.
Morrison entered because she became excited about the concept.
“I feel strongly regardless whether or not the brand is the same, Ironman versus Challenge, Penticton is the one place in the world that I have come across that really knows how to put an Ironman distance race on and make it incredibly successful,” said Morrison. “The community is just so behind the whole process. Even last night as I said, this community lives, sleeps, eats and breathes these kinds of races. I’m just really excited for what’s going to be able to come about. I feel the Challenge family, what I’m continuing to learn about it, truly is more grass roots. It’s going to benefit the community and the athletes and the sponsors, everyone involved 10-fold.”
Morrison, who returned to the sport after a car accident in 2010 and placed third in Subaru Ironman Canada last year, said she is honoured and privileged to have the chance to run in the first Challenge Penticton.
“I really wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she said. “Penticton is going to be able to shine.”
Paul McCann, chair of the Penticton Triathlon Race Society, said there are roughly 750 triathletes participating in the solo event and 100 relay teams. Morrison will be among the 750 solo athletes, but said she likes the relay option.
“It will draw more people,” she said. “It’s going to draw more of a diverse crowd.”
Making the decision to enter Challenge Penticton was difficult for Symonds mainly because it means he will miss Ironman World Championship 70.3 in Henderson, Nevada, which is two weeks later on Sept. 8/13.
“It just came down to knowing how much of an impact having this race here, the inspiration, the people that it’s drawn to this town,” said Symonds. “I felt like it was important for me to do what I can do to make sure this race is successful and sticks.”
Symonds didn’t get the OK from his sponsors until the morning of the open house. It will be the first time that Symonds takes on the Ironman distance since he never had the chance to do Subaru Ironman Canada, which disappointed him.
“It’s always just been about racing a world class event in my home town,” he said. “The amazing support and the community behind it. I think with the Challenge, I think everyone really understands it’s on Pentictonites, it’s on us to make this thing work.”
Symonds said it’s great Morrison is also competing and described her as someone “super passionate about the sport.”
“Couldn’t ask for a better advocate of the Penticton brand,” he said. “She’s a great role model for the other athletes. A great inspirational story for everyone.”
McCann said they are excited to have two local world-class athletes participating.
“It’s great to see her want to race Challenge Penticton,” he said. “Symonds is a young man with a great future in front of him.”
Those two, along with Leder and Granger, give McCann confidence that more people will sign up. McCann said registration took a dip with the Ironman Canada Whistler announcement, but feels momentum from the open house and merchandising. He expects more growth over the next three months.
Morrison on Ironman Canada: “I really feel strongly Ironman Canada ended as soon as it left Penticton,” she said. “It’s just never going to be the same race. That is something that I do know. Ironman Canada was Penticton and Penticton was Ironman Canada. I’m sure Whistler will do a good job.”