Penticton has a rich tradition of hosting world class sporting events and in particular, 35 years of triathlon. Over the next 10 days, there will be 3,600 athletes representing over 50 countries competing in duathlon (run, bike, run), Cross Triathlon (swim bike run – off road), Aquathon (swim, run), Aquabike (swim, bike) and Long Course Triathlon. To put some perspective on the size of this event, the 1988 winter Olympics in Calgary had 1423 athletes and the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver had 2566 participants. There are over 1000 Canadian athletes, 1000 Americans and 1600 athletes from 48 other countries.
While there are pro racers competing, the vast majority are your typical weekend warriors that have an opportunity to represent their country at a world championship. It is expected that each athlete will bring 2 support people with them, so we should see an extra 10,000 people in our community over the next 10 days.
It is pretty cool to host an event that not only bolsters civic pride, but also national honour as each athlete’s jersey will have their flag, so you can cheer for your country of heritage along with team Canada. Penticton was chosen to host this inaugural world championship competing against bids from Denmark, Spain and Singapore which speaks to our incredible history.
I remember interviewing a pro triathlete several years ago about his race experience in Penticton. He was having a difficult day and while he was contemplating withdrawing during the run, he had his spirits lifted. It was as simple as a couple sitting at the end of their driveway cheering him on and encouraging him to continue. As he was reliving the moment a tear came to his eye. There was such a powerful and emotional connection to the local volunteers and supporters. We are well known for being such a welcoming and friendly community.
We have a legendary volunteer army of thousands and supporters that watch with amazement the grueling athleticism that is triathlon. Most people, including myself, get exhausted swimming 30 meters let alone 3 kilometers. Cycling for 120 kilometers and then a meager 30KM run is not most people’s version of fun, but adds to the lure and respect for watching these athletes compete.
There will be obvious massive economic impacts and with that, many people coming to town, significant media exposure, and opportunity to re-establish Penticton as the premiere destination to train, compete and all things triathlon.
I encourage everyone to get ready by visiting www.penticton2017.com to view the road closures and course maps to plan your day. The organizers have worked hard to mitigate traffic and business disruption, but there will be some impacts for short periods of time. Most of the events are in the north end of town and morning races, so disruptions should be minimal. It can be difficult for some to fathom community benefit when their business access is limited, but bear in mind most of the athletes are here for 10 days along with their friends and family that will have down time to shop, eat, wine tour and enjoy many of our amenities.
We want people to get excited and get involved. There will be a street dance, parade of athletes, kid’s race, and of course 6 race events. There is still opportunity to volunteer and is needed to ensure the athlete experience is second to none. I have volunteered many times at the finish line which is where the energy and euphoric atmosphere is best witnessed.
What has amazed me the most is even after 7 hours of gruelling exercise as the athlete comes down the finish line chute there is nothing but smiles, and despite being out of breath, they still mutter “Thank-you, look back at the finish clock and say ‘still a good day’!”
These athletes are inspirational to watch, and I encourage everyone to come out and cheer on for your country and racer of choice.