Triathlon pair die during sea swim

2013-01-22 00:00

PORT ELIZABETH — Two Gauteng competitors in the Ironman 70.3 triathlon championship in East London died of cardiac arrest during yesterday’s open sea swimming race.

By late yesterday the organisers of the sixth edition of the Spec­Savers Ironman 70.3 competition had not yet released the names of the two men, aged 29 and 37, because they had not been given permission by the families.

Many swimmers experienced difficulties during the 1,9 km sea swim, said Marietjie Jordaan, a spectator.

“During the time that I stood there, I saw the rescue boat come in at least three times with competitors on board. Some of them were carried off on stretchers, others could walk unaided.”

She said she was shocked about the deaths “because it was a perfect day. The sea was calm, the swell was not high.”

A competitor who wanted to remain anonymous said the swimmers could have died because they were not used to competing in the sea.

“Because conditions are so different and the swimmers can crowd together — especially at the turns around the beacons — it could happen that some [swimmers] panic.

“I am a cyclist, swimming is my nightmare. I remember how I felt when I swam competitively for the first time in the sea,” he added.

The sea swim is the first race in the Ironman event. The next legs are a 90,1 km cycle race and a 21,1 km half-marathon.

Race spokesperson Michael Flanagan said all attempts were made to save the lives of the two Gauteng athletes, both on the rescue boat and in the first aid tent.

Dr Izak Maree, who headed the medical team, confirmed that both athletes had suffered cardiac respiratory arrests. They were taken to hospital where they were declared dead.

Flanagan said neither of the deceased had indicated on their entry forms that they had heart problems or other medical conditions.

“We convey our deepest sympathy to their families,” said Keith Bowler, managing director of World Endurance Africa, which hosts the Ironman competition.

A minute of silence was held to remember the competitors during the medal ceremony.

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