Friday, August 17, 2012

re Ironman swimming death

by now most of you have heard of the death that occurred at the recent inaugural Ironman New York. for those of you who haven't, a competitor was pulled from the water during the swim portion of the race and taken to a hospital where he later died. at this point, the cause of death is still unknown.

you can read a couple of news announcements here:
this marks the most recent high-profile death at a triathlon to date. the number of deaths that occur during triathlons has risen in recent years. in part, this is to be expected, since the sport has grown and the number of competitors has increased. despite this, news reports still find the numbers disconcerting, especially with the incidence of fatalities being higher in triathlons than it is in other endurance sports like marathons. this isn't new--they've been stating this for several years. you can reference:
i've already written my piece on these fatalities, so i won't repeat anything here. you can reference:
what i will say, however, is that what struck me about the fatality at Ironman New York was the description of the victim given by his friend: he was a veteran triathlete, seasoned athlete, and a model of physical fitness. as far as the news reports say, he had no history of health issues or cautionary preconditions that made him a potential fatality.  in short, he was not the kind of person people might think of as being "at risk" of injury or death from competition.

i think this stresses just how serious an endeavor triathlon, particularly Ironman, races are. no athlete is immune from the dangers of injury or death. they're not to be taken lightly. not by competitors, not by race organizers, not by volunteers, not by host communities, not by spectators, not anyone.

which means that there's plenty of opportunity, if not responsibility, to go around for everyone involved to make them as safe as possible. apart from my comments in previous posts as to what can be done, i came across an excellent Slowtwitch article by Dan Empfield that echoes a lot of my sentiments but adds in some further insight and recommendations:
as a final word, i recall that USA Triathlon convened a task force in 2011 to investigate the rise in deaths at triathlons and make recommendations on how to mitigate them. i haven't heard anything about what the task force has done, but i'm curious. especially now in the wake of what happened at Ironman New York. i think there's now some cause for a sense of urgency about the task force, and i think many others in the endurance sports community are starting to feel the same way.

be safe out there, folks. this is serious stuff.

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