Flags fly­ing high

IRON­MAN ATH­LETES TAKE TO THE STREET FOR PA­RADE OF NA­TIONS

West Hawaii Today - - Front Page - BY J.R. DE GROOTE jde­g­roote@west­hawai­ito­day.com

KAILUA-KONA — Flags were fly­ing high on Alii Drive Tues­day af­ter­noon as ath­letes from around the globe came out for the Iron­man Pa­rade of Na­tions in some wet weather.

The triath­letes’ an­nual trek down the sto­ried stretch of road, which is the of­fi­cial sig­nal that race day is near, fea­tured the singing of songs, danc­ing, cos­tumed crea­tures and cow­bells — lots of cow­bells.

“It makes you proud to be from your coun­try,” said He­len Richards, who marched with Great Bri­tain in the pa­rade and is rac­ing in Kona for the first time. “The crowd cheers you on as you

go and it makes you want to wave your flag. It’s a ton of fun.”

This year, Europe rep­re­sents 39 per­cent of the field, while North Amer­ica fol­lows closely with 37 per­cent of ath­letes regis­tered to race in the event. The United States is the most rep­re­sented na­tion with 741 regis­tered com­peti­tors, fol­lowed by Aus­tralia (234), Ger­many (217) and Great Bri­tain (150).

Ath­letes have come from 48 states, with the great­est num­ber com­ing from Cal­i­for­nia (113), fol­lowed by Texas (58), Colorado (53), Hawaii (50) and New York (49). Among the masses will be 29 ath­letes from the Big Is­land tak­ing on their back­yard course.

Five new coun­tries are be­ing rep­re­sented in Kona this year, with ath­letes from Kaza­khstan, Paraguay, Ser­bia, Uruguay and Uzbek­istan mak­ing their Orchid Isle de­buts.

In the di­verse field, Hiromu Inada, of Ja­pan, is the old­est par­tic­i­pant at 84, while Paul Len­nart, of Den­mark, is the youngest at 18. The av­er­age age of a com­peti­tor is 43 years old.

“The evo­lu­tion of this race over the decades has been amaz­ing,” said An­drew Mes­sick, CEO Iron­man. “From the most mod­est of be­gin­nings, the Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship has evolved into an ex­tra­or­di­nary in­ter­na­tional event with more than 2,400 regis­tered com­peti­tors from 66 coun­tries around the world.”

At 6:35 a.m. Satur­day, start­ing with the pro­fes­sional men’s start, the largest Iron­man World Cham­pi­onship field ever of more than 2,400 com­peti­tors will take on the leg­endary 140.6-mile course. The race fea­tures a 2.4-mile ocean swim in Kailua Bay, fol­lowed by a 112-mile bike ride along the Queen Kaahu­manu High­way from down­town Kona to the turn­around in Hawi, capped by a 26.2mile run that wraps up at the Alii Drive fin­ish line.

RICK WINTERS/ WEST HAWAII TO­DAY

Mem­bers of team China walk down Alii Drive dur­ing the Pa­rade of Na­tions on Tues­day.

RICK WINTERS/ WEST HAWAII TO­DAY

A mem­ber of Team Ja­pan hands out candy to keiki while mem­bers of Team Luxembourg and Team Mex­ico fol­low on Alli Drive dur­ing the Pa­rade of Na­tions on Tues­day.

RICK WINTERS/ WEST HAWAII TO­DAY

Team Great Bri­tain walks down Alii Drive dur­ing the Pa­rade of Na­tions on Tues­day.

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