ST. GEORGE, Utah — Since 1978, the IRONMAN World Championship has been held each year in Kona, Hawaii. But due to a coronavirus-related cancellation of the 2021 event and ongoing restrictions, the event has found a new area to host in Southern Utah.
“Nobody ever anticipated something like this would happen, that is the most iconic one-day endurance event in the world and it’s been in Hawaii for 44 years, nobody anticipated it would go anywhere else there’s so much mystique to what has happened there over the years,” said Kevin Lewis, Director of the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office.
Previous IRONMAN races have been held in Utah, but nothing quite like the world championship which features nearly 3,500 athletes from 80 countries who previously qualified in events all over the world.
Athletes range in age from 18 to 79 years old, with all 50 U.S. states accounted for, with the most coming from Utah, California, Texas and Colorado.
“They (athletes) usually bring three or four people with them,” said Lewis. “We anticipate that the entourage will be between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors into the area from around the globe.”
Millions of dollars in revenue will not only flow into the area, but be circulated among Washington County.
“Because of the kindness and because people are welcoming and excited to have that championship, it brings people downtown all along the race course actually, cheering on the athletes," said St. George Mayor Michelle Randall.
The event on Saturday features a 2.4 mile swim, 122 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. Athletes will begin in the water at 6:15 a.m., with some of the final competitors expected to finish around 1 a.m., Sunday.
“It’s an honor,” said local competitor Tuff Fowler. “It’s really spectacular to think about just to be even participating in the world championship to have the opportunity to be out there with everybody else, just to enjoy the race altogether I guess what I’m really happy about.”
“So knowing that the best athletes are coming to town and I get to ride in the same race is humbling to say the least,” said Dr. Scott Parkinson, who also lives locally in Southern Utah.
The Intermountain Healthcare IRONMAN World Championship is presented by the Utah Sports Commission.