A professional athlete who completed his first triathlon in Youghal, Co Cork 14 years ago returned to the town on Sunday and became the first man over the line at the Ironman competition.
Chris Mintern from Cork took just over eight hours and 38 minutes to complete the 3.8km swim, a 180km bike course and a 42.2km run.
Chris said that he was very grateful to Youghal for all the support shown to him over the years.
“I started in this sport in Youghal, and everybody was so good to me — looking after me, showing me the ropes. I felt like today I had to give something back as a thank you for everything they’ve done. The hardest part of the race was not getting carried away by the crowds.
Windmill Hill was an unbelievable goosebumps experience, and the run course as well. I’ve never had an experience like that before, and that was worth an extra ten percent alone with the crowds.”
Some 2,500 athletes took part in the event amid inclement weather conditions with temperatures reaching the late twenties.
Organisers confirmed that as Chris is a professional male athlete, and there was no professional men’s field in today’s race he wasn’t eligible to take home the Champion title or qualify for the World Championships.
“He chose to participate for fun, as Youghal is his home race.”
Ironman Ireland, Cork had a professional women’s field. The first-place professional female and overall race winner was Svenja Thoes (DEU), followed by Simone Mitchell in second place (GBR) and Laura Zimmermann (GER) in third.
Svenja Thoes was crowned 2022 Ironman Ireland, Cork Champion, however race officials have since noted an instance of alleged outside assistance during the event. Following investigation by race officials, Ms Thoes was issued a post-race disqualification.
The appeals process remains open to the athlete per regular competition rules, whereafter results will be finalised.
The men’s age group Winner was Christoffer Louis Heick with a time of 09:24:31 whilst the women’s age group winner was Irish woman Ellen Murphy with a time of 10:37:31.
Up to 10,000 visitors lined the streets to welcome the athletes back. The three day competition got underway on Friday amid concerns about possible melting tarmac arising out of the mini heatwave which is ongoing in the country.
One in five entrants today were first time Ironman athletes, with competitors ranging in age from 18-72. One athlete’s journey to the starting line earned particular attention.
Mark Bryant, who runs the podcast Terminal to Triathlon, was given a prognosis of six months to live after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2015.
Mr Bryant has undertaken a remarkable healing journey — which has seen him complete his first triathlon in 2018 and look toward his first full-distance Ironman finish in Youghal today.
The native of Colwyn Bay in Wales said that he drew a mind map when he was in his hospital bed in September 2015 after undergoing a stem cell transplant. “One of my goals was to complete an Ironman, which has always been a lifelong dream. I won my school triathlon against the sixth formers when I was just 13 years old and was crowned the Ironman of Ellesmere College. It was one of my proudest moments.
“My ultimate goal is to make Terminal to Triathlon my career, so I can continue to document and share my passion for health, healing, and impossible goals. I know fear is a big energy to ride, and my intention has always been to ride it, release it, and come out the other side even stronger.”
Youghal received a cash injection of upwards of €10 million as a result of the three day event.
The Ironman weekend this year saw the introduction of Ironkids, a run only event for children aged four to fifteen on Friday, Ironman 70.3, a sold out middle distance event yesterday and the pinnacle Ironman Ireland competition today.
The middle-distance Ironman 70.3 on Saturday involved athletes completing a 1.9km single-lap swim in the Celtic Sea and a scenic 90km bike course. Cycling around East Ferry, through Youghal’s town centre, and up the infamously difficult climb at Windmill Hill, athletes finished the race with a 21.1km run, or half marathon. The event offered 45 qualifying slots for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Lahti, Finland in August of next year.