American breaks eight-hour barrier for back-to-back Ironman African victories
Thousands of spectators took the scorching weather in their stride yesterday to cheer on more than 2 000 die-hard endurance athletes in the 13th Standard Bank Ironman African Championship.
Organisers said the weather was the cherry on top for another successful event, that saw much of Marine Drive buzzing with excited fans until nightfall.
US professional athlete Ben Hoffman successfully defended his Ironman African Championship title, finishing in just under eight hours.
The first woman home was Ironman World Championship winner Daniela Ryf, from Switzerland.
Bay supporter and keen athlete Ashwell Isaacs, 32, said the event had motivated him to enter next year’s gruelling triathlon.
“This [Ironman] is inspiring – just seeing ordinary people doing great stuff,” Isaacs said.
“I did the half Ironman in East London this year, but I was not ready yet to do the full Ironman.
“Next year definitely, with a lot of training, I will do it.”
Three high-spirited East London friends, dressed in striped Where’s Wally outfits, were dancing and cheering the athletes on.
“This is fantastic weather, and we are so emotional and excited,” one of them, Gareth Hartmann, said.
Ironman managing director Keith Bowler said he was happy the main event had gone well.
“This course is regarded as one of the best in the world,” Bowler said.
“[Its success] basically is the people of Nelson Mandela Bay, who come out in full force until the night.
“This event is embraced by the city and it gets bigger and better every year.”
The only blot on the event was the injury of a woman spectator, who tripped in the road opposite the Marine Hotel and was hit by an oncoming Ironman cyclist.
She was reportedly taken to a hospital by medical services, but this could not be confirmed.
There was also a fun atmosphere on Saturday during the corporate challenge and Spur Ironkids.
In the corporate challenge, 420 athletes took part in the 380m swim, 18km cycle and 4.2km run.
The first team home was Sport Contact, one of several teams from Continental Tyre SA, in just under 45 minutes.
Wynand Minnie, of team Afrox, said: “This week, I think we will have a few days’ sick leave.
“The guys will have pains in muscles they didn’t think they had.”
There were 1 000 participants in the Ironkids event, which consisted of a 100m swim and 1.2km run.
The enthusiasm shown by the little ones at the McArthur pool start was, for many, the day’s highlight.
Richard Moss, 7, of Johannesburg, said the race was a tough one. “I am glad it’s finally over,” he said. “So many people tried to get past me and I blocked them.
“I have to take this medal to school to show everyone.”