Ironman in Youghal called off for 2024 after double fatality

US triathlon group says it will ‘take a hiatus’ from the event in a blow to the Co Cork economy

US triathlon group Ironman has scrapped plans to hold a big race event next year in Youghal after two competitors died in the August event.

In a statement on Tuesday as it notified athletes of the decision, Ironman said it will “take a hiatus” from the event next year. The move is a blow to the Co Cork economy as the race draws thousands of athletes and supporters to the race, boosting the hospitality sector.

“Cork county and the town of Youghal has become a much-loved home for Ironman in Ireland, and the Irish triathlon community is important to us,” the group said.

“This pause will allow for further healing while we spend the next year assessing the best path forward to deliver an exceptional weekend of racing once again for our athletes in one of the most passionate host communities in the world.”

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The move comes as consultants Grant Thornton carry out a review into the fatal race, commissioned by national governing body Triathlon Ireland. Ironman and Triathlon Ireland had clashed over the circumstances in which the race started in rough seas amid anxiety about water safety.

Athletes had complained of “horrendous” conditions during the sea swim part of the event in which Ivan Chittenden (64) and Brendan Wall (45) died.

Triathlon Ireland said its decision not to sanction the race because of safety issues was communicated to Ironman before the race began. That stance contradicted Ironman’s assertion that it was informed of the Triathlon Ireland decision not to sanction the race only hours after the swim finished.

The official sanction for a triathlon is a form of governing body permit for the race. According to Triathlon Ireland’s website, the insurance scheme for its members does not cover competitors in a race without such a sanction.

Ironman was notifying athletes on Tuesday morning that the 2024 races will not go ahead but held out the prospect of holding the event the following year.

“We are thankful for the support of Cork County Council, and we appreciate their continued partnership and commitment as we work collectively towards bringing back the event in the strongest way possible in 2025 and beyond,” the group said.

“Athletes who currently hold a deferral or credits for next year’s Ironman Ireland, Cork or Ironman 70.3 Ireland, Cork have been contacted about the options available to them.”

In a statement, Cork County Council said it decision to cancel the event next year was “solely a decision for Ironman”.

“Cork County and the town of Youghal have become a much-loved home for Ironman in Ireland, and the Irish triathlon community,” the council said.

The local authority remained “committed to continuing its relationship” with Ironman, it said. “In recognition of the significant tourism and economic importance that the event has to the region, Cork County Council has agreed to host this event again in 2025, 2026 and 2027,” it said.

Independent county councillor Mary Linehan Foley, who is from Youghal, said the area would welcome the event back in 2025. “It isn’t that it is gone for good, it is a hiatus,” she said. The triathlon was a “massive event” for the economy of the Co Cork seaside town, she said.

The local community’s thoughts were still with the families of the two men who had died, she said. “Maybe it’s a good thing to have a hiatus and then come back in 2025. We can take one year out for sure and show our respects,” she said.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times