China: the impact on the Ironman Family

Many of you know the news that has recently rocked the Ironman triathlon world – Ironman China was cancelled.

According to the WTC who run the Ironman Events there was no alternative and the blame falls on Chinese officials and red tape. The management of this was then handled like most business decisions. An official announcement was made and that was that. No apology letter to competitors and no thought put into how they resolve some of the issues  – like how to fairly distribute the Hawaii slots.

There were some obvious flaws, everyone has their opinions and the arguments will continue for a long time.  Will the IM event ever return to China? I know we wont be booking tickets again!

What I want to write about, is how this cancellation has effected the competitors families and the Ironman family as a whole.

I am the wife of an Ironman China competitor – and so are my two friends. Our 3 husbands were travelling to China together from Sydney to experience Ironman China and in the hope of qualifying for Hawaii. The last two weeks have been a journey of emotions. Shock, anger, disappointment. We have seen our husbands train hard for the last 5 months with the one goal in mind and now that goal has been taken away – there are a lot of questions left lingering…

My friend said it perfectly in a letter to the WTC when she explained “Training for an ironman race is a massive commitment in time and energy not just by the athlete but his entire family”.

She highlighted to them the emotional impact a cancellation has had on her family, particularly when explaining to young kids that all the hard work and training and missing family commitments is for nothing now that there is no race. You can accept this if they can’t race due to injury but much harder when it is beyond your control.

For many of the China competitors this race was the only one for the year. Their only opportunity to qualify for Hawaii – and lets be honest here, most committed Ironman have the ultimate goal of competing in Hawaii.

For families, holidays are planned and money is saved. It can’t all be changed at short notice. On top of that, particular for competitors in Australasia, there are very few Ironman races to compete in and they are sold out a year ahead. There is no going to the US to compete. There is no Ironman now for us in 2011.

What breaks my heart, is seeing someone in top condition ready for the race of their life after months of training, have their goal taken away and then treated like a business transaction.

Ironman races are a business these days but when they announce so openly at all their races that we are one Ironman family – how can they then not treat their competitors like family and show them some respect?

It was deflating to hear “I am over Ironman”, “This is it ” and  “no more” – when after 10 years I felt like Ironman would be part of our family forever. I know my husband is not the only one feeling this way.

Some competitors will get to another race this year, which will mean more training and juggling work and family life. Others like ours are disillusioned with Ironman and who knows when and if we will return.

I wrote to WTC with my concerns, as did the other wives and competitors we know. I did receive a personal reply but the response did not ease the anger or answer the questions.

It will be interesting to see what happens next  year with Ironman races across our region. To me it seems not enough races and too few Hawaii slots for a race that depsite it’s management will never lose the lure it holds to maybe one day race on the the Big Island. The sport seems to be growing. The interest will remain. I wish we could turn our backs and move on to other races appearing on the horizon, but even to me, the supporter, Hawaii is calling. Will we forgive and be part of the Ironman family again?

How do you  feel about the Ironman China cancellation?  Let me know about your experience. How did it effect your family?

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  1. Thank you for this post. I was booked to race this event with my husband (my second ironman and his ? 7th). In fact we had both been tarnished by ironman japan 2010 cancellation approximately 2 weeks before the race. We had been planning for china since, as it was the best that fit into our calendar and we didn’t have to sign up 12 months in advance.
    At least 5 months of my working life had been arranged around the training for this event. Precious family time became much more limited and I am sure some career opportunities were lost. On learning about the swim cancellation, I was annoyed, my husband seriously “pissed”. I managed to calm him. A text message from a friend to inform me of the whole event cancellation , I initially thought was a joke. It still hasn’t sunk in. Although despite all the anger, frustration and bitterness, I still want to race. It’s a primeval urge (not just the kona slot for me!). It must be, because I am too smart to make the same mistake 3 times! But what to do? How can I now completely rearrange life yet again for one of the complimentary races? My mother says that things run in 3s: suggest no one else signs up for my next race!
    We eventually applied to race in Germany (Regensburg), although logistics will be very tough, not to mention training in this cold weather. On this though, I still await a return email from the IM office (2 days after their own deadline!). On the whole I have been very disappointed with the communication from the IM office: too many unanswered emails and where reply received, no specific answers to my questions. TriTravel with whom we booked our accommodation, seemed just as frustrated with the delays. From my end I wonder about all the politicking and game playing responsible for the whole debacle. The refund that was recently offered is a small consolation. I hope our travel insurance will pay for the rest. I certainly think that IM/WTC had significant pressure put on them to offer a refund. I for one, bombarded their facebook page with complaints and criticism. My husband’s potty-mouthed comments lasted about 1hour online until they were pulled down! Possibly a small win in the era of social media.
    I hear and feel your pain and frustration. I wish I could help. I certainly think it’s good to get your thoughts out there. Who knows what the new year will bring for the IM SE Asia/Australia circuit.
    Best wishes and luck from a Sydney Ironman family! (Truly that branding is NUTS!)

    • Hi Mia – sorry about delayed reply but I thought I had sent back one long ago….too much going on in life! It was great to get your story and thoughts on the IM process! Very frustrating for you after Japan being cancelled also! All the best in Germany. Hope training is going well. My husband is pretty pleased that in the end he did not commit to another race as this cold weather does not make it easy to train! Think he is quite enjoying a break 🙂 Meanwhile, I am training for my first marathon which is on in less than 2 weeks! – so we have had a role switch in the family. Don’t know how you manage to both get your training done! Thanks for reading my website – Lisa 🙂

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