Youghal Ironman: Ivan Chittenden ‘was doing what he loved’ when he died, says coach

Canadian (64), one of two men who died during Co Cork triathlon, ‘lived more in the last 12 years than many of us live in a lifetime’

A trainer “blessed with the gift” of coaching Ivan Chittenden (64) said she knows in her heart the Canadian man was “doing what he loved” when he died at the Ironman event in Youghal, Co Cork, last Sunday.

Mr Chittenden and Mr Brendan Wall (45) died in separate incidents during the 1.9km swim section of the Ironman event on Claycastle Beach on Sunday morning.

Lisa Bentley, an 11-time Ironman champion, said although she coached Mr Chittenden in triathlon and honed his marathon running for 12 years, her role was more about “walking beside him as a friend”.

“And guiding him as he aspired to do his first triathlon, then his first half Ironman and ultimately his first Ironman. And he did it all again and again and even ran all six of the marathon majors in Tokyo, Berlin, London, Chicago, New York City and Boston,” Ms Bentley said.


“He was my friend. He was my family. Those are not words. That is a fact. I will miss him very much. I know in my heart that he was doing what he loved when he left us. Ivan was in the shape of his life. He kept getting faster as he got older.”

Ms Bentley said she went on a four-hour cycle with Mr Chittenden three weeks ago where he was his typical brimming-with-energy self. “In the usual Ivan fashion, he blasted the downhills leaving me in his wake! Part of me thought ‘I want to keep up’ and the other part thought ‘well, I guess I am doing my job as a coach since he is so fast.’”

Ms Bentley said Mr Chittenden loved triathlon and that over their years training together he became the ‘elder statesman’ of their training group.

“He was no longer the rookie doing 45-minute rides and 1000m swims. He was a confident athlete routinely throwing down three- to four-hour rides, 90-minute runs and 2500m to 3000m swims and strength work. Ivan lived more in the last 12 years than many of us live in a lifetime. He got out of his comfort zone. He travelled. He trained. He raced.”

Ms Bentley said that before Mr Chittenden embarked on Ironman 70.3 in Youghal last week she communicated with him every day by phone, text or email.

“He was now in the 65-69 age group despite being 64 until October. And I reminded him ‘hey, you better go to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships ... because there are not many 65-year-olds faster than you!

“Ivan lived full. He was happily married – so happy. He got to travel the world. He accomplished his goal of racing triathlon, racing multiple Ironman events, racing multiple Boston marathons and the six World Marathon Majors. He was a gentleman,” she added.