Ironman Group in DEEP trouble as Triathlon Ireland denies sanctioning Ironman Ireland event where 2 died

Ironman Group in DEEP Trouble as Triathlon Ireland denies sanctioning Ironman Ireland Event where 2 died

Triathlon Ireland has formally said, below, that it did not sanction a triathlon race in Co Cork, Ireland in which two male competitors died. This puts the Ironman organisation in a very tricky situation as suspicions must now rise that the race was continued for practical and commercial reasons rather than being stopped for reasons of safety. Investigations are obviously underway but here are some general ramifications of running an unsanctioned event


  1. Liability for Injuries: Organizers may face lawsuits for negligence. Without the backing of a governing body, organizers might be liable for damages.
  2. Lack of Insurance: Many sanctioned events come with specific insurance coverages that protect both the participants and organizers. If an unsanctioned event doesn’t have appropriate insurance, the financial burden of any claims or liabilities could fall on the organizers. (Edit: see comments below, many competitors bought day race licences from Triathlon Ireland which include insurance, this insurance could have been invalidated)
  3. Endorsements and Sponsorships: Brands and companies that sponsor or endorse unsanctioned events also face reputational risks and negative associations.
  4. Sanctions by Governing Bodies: The governing body might be able to impose penalties or sanctions on participants as well as the organizers.
  5. Reputational Damage: Organizers of unsanctioned events might face reputational harm. They might be viewed as irresponsible or unprofessional by sponsors, potential participants, and the broader community.

In my personal opinion, it is an unusual and severe situation when a National Governing Body withdraws a race sanction on safety grounds and when that race then goes ahead. Personally, I’ve never heard of that happening at a National-scale event, although my knowledge is limited.


Image|Cathal Shaw via RTE

We might consider the broader implications of proceeding with a race where sanctioning has been removed on safety grounds

  1. Reason for Withdrawal: The reason for the last-minute withdrawal of sanctioning is a critical factor in determining the severity and scope of implications.  Lack of safety is a serious reason, perhaps the most serious.
  2. Legal & Financial Implications: The ultimate organizers, Ironman Group, might face increased liability if its insurance is invalidated.
  3. Public Perception: The public’s perception of the Ironman Ireland event will be tarnished and many will argue that the reputation of the Ironman organization is now tarnished. I would be surprised to see the race run in 2024.
  4. Communication: It seems that participants were not made aware of the removal of Triathlon Ireland’s sanctioning of the race. I’m no lawyer but I would suspect that this opens avenues of litigation from other race participants including those who could not finish the race because of the conditions and those who might claim to be traumatised by the experience.
  5. Future Relations with the Governing Body: Clearly the relationship between Ironman Group and Triathlon Ireland will be strained. Worse than that, every other national governing body would be foolish not to seek further clarifications and assurances from Ironman about all its future events globally.

I’m not a race organizer, race official or lawyer. However, it seems to be that Ironman is in deep trouble on multiple fronts and it’s not inconceivable that this could finish the organization. Especially when the company’s official Facebook page posted this image of race day conditions. An image that is significantly at odds with the image above was taken when competitors braved waves seemingly higher than themselves at the start.



I remain saddened by the events and again extend my condolences to the families of Ivan Chittenden and Brendan Wall.

Further news has emerged about one of the athletes.

65-year-old Ivan Chittenden’s Linked profile shows that he is a more than competent triathlete and a swimmer of over a decade. His race record indicates he must have significant open-water swim experience

In my early 50’s I became an endurance athlete and learned how to swim. Amongst my accomplishments with this passion, I have completed 5 ironman distance races, 8 half ironman distance races and have ran all 6 of the World Marathon Majors


2 triathletes die – Ironman Ireland 70.3

Statement from Darren Coombes, CEO of Triathlon Ireland

Triathlon Ireland is reeling from the news that Ivan Chittenden and Brendan Wall, athletes in the Ironman Cork event in Youghal, tragically died yesterday morning while participating in the race. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ivan’s and Brendan’s loved ones.  The triathlon community is a very close community and this loss has had a devastating effect on all of us.

Triathlon Ireland is the National Governing Body for triathlon in Ireland, a role which includes providing sanction for club and commercial races to proceed. In our almost 40 year history, the sport in Ireland has an impeccable safety record.

For the Ironman Cork event, in line with normal practice, Triathlon Ireland Technical Officials attended before the start of the race to review the conditions and carry out a water safety assessment. Due to adverse conditions on the day, Triathlon Ireland Technical Officials confirmed to the race organisers that it was not possible to sanction the race.

As there is an investigation ongoing, at this stage it would not be appropriate for us to make any further comment only to state that Triathlon Ireland will provide any assistance that the authorities require.

Finally, we reiterate our deepest condolences to the families of Ivan Chittenden and Brendan Wall.

Ironman Diss Triathlon Ireland & Cork Council Diss Ironman

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17 thoughts on “Ironman Group in DEEP trouble as Triathlon Ireland denies sanctioning Ironman Ireland event where 2 died

  1. I’m from Youghal.

    Spoke with a few locals who did the race and they said there were many close calls during the swim.

    Many people actually turned back before getting to the buoy (official turning point) due to struggling with the waves.

    He said that there was a person who was thrown up against the rocks, went underwater, and he had to pull them out.

    From listening to the radio, there was at least one other person thrown up against the rocks too and had to be pulled out by someone working at the event.

    I always wondered why they didn’t do Ironman Ireland in July when the weather is calmer here.

    1. jeez.
      It sounds like someone needs to pull together some of these stories.
      I gues most of us have come across one such story on our travels on races but multiple ones in one race is incredible

    2. The first Cork IronMan was June 23 2019.
      That was almost as bad as last Sunday. And yet they cancelled that swim.
      Last year the Thunder lightning and Floods on the main street were equally awful.
      My son is an 8 times IronMan, a multiple 70.3 and endurance runner. He comes “home” to race proudly in his country of birth. He will Never again race in Cork. IronMan ie needs to be moved to a lake.

  2. I fully understand that they had a lot of registered participants whom had a clear expectation that the event would be carried out – they have trained for months, and weather was not stopping them.

    However, I do not understand that they put it off for 24 hours and then without difficulty choose to throw the participants into the waves that you see in the above picture and then in another picture on Facebook shows calm see that you could undoubtedly swim in.

    A kind of cover-my-ass if someone tried to complain afterwards = look, the weather/see is fine!
    Ofcourse there are hundreds of videos of participants jumping into the water so everything is on-tape so to speak.

    The probability that IM Cork will be held in the future is very small, and if it is, it will be with a completely different number of participants . I would definately not dare to sign up for Cork.
    Who would dare to participate and turn over the responsibility to someone whom puts money above life?

    (Sorry for my english, it is not my native language).

    1. hi
      i think the delay was due to the condition of the ROADS. which were covered in debris on Saturday and cleared on Saturday. I’ve only seen a couple of photos of the cleanup but the roads were not usable.

      money before life: yes, kinda. I see where you are coming from. I would suppose that sea swimming is inherently more dangerous than river swimming which is inherently more dangerous than lake swimming which is more dangerous than pool swimming. There is a spectrum of dagers and a spectrum of athlete abilities.

      Organisers have to CORRECTLY draw the line somewhere which is probably to get the race sanctioned independently by the national body (!! which was withdrawn)

      Then participants also have a duty of care to themselves and to be realistic about their abilities. Of course, they can be free to push themselves beyond the bounds of safety but must then take responsibility for their choices.

      1. I agree IM Copenhagen is a no-brainer, you are safe as you do not swim directly in Oeresund, and the waves you are going to see is created by those around you.

        We had one year where the issue was bacteria in the water and quite a lot of people got sick in the following days with stomach issue.

        You are ofcourse as a participant somewhat sole responsible for your own safety – but having trained for an IM many months it just “might” make you leave the responsibility to someone else to decide whether you should start or not.

        Also a trip to cork would probably cost a person like me if I travel alone about Eur 1500-2000 (Travel+Hotel+Food) + the participant fee.

        IM Cork should have offered the participants to be able to get a refund of the participant fee if they choose not to start. That would have made the decision slightly easier.

        Having said that, I am happy that I was not the one (perhaps sole person) whom decided to say “Let’s go ahead” or say “Let’s call the day”.

        Regardless what is going to happen with IM Cork – I do hope that IM as whole, survives this crisis that are happening right now.

  3. I was a part of the event and having done multi ironman events can certainly confirm it was one of the harder swims.

    My only question was if Triathlon Ireland did indeed not sanction the race, why at the time was that not communicated to athletes? Having delayed for 40 minutes there was plenty of time to do so.

    If Triathlon Ireland are willing to remain mute until after the race then what does this mean for every other Triathlon event in Ireland? I purchased my day license through them and my insurance was probably null and void so I do feel they have some responsibility.

    1. Quite! I can’t really answer those points, I hadn’t thought of the day licence issue, which is a good one.

      that said, I’m not sure triathlon Ireland should be criticised (yet).

      You suggest there was 40 minutes before the race started from the no-sanction decision being made. I suspect you would agree with me that 40 minutes (or even 15 minutes) is ample time for race organizers to communicate to athletes that the event is no longer sanctioned.

      If I was there and if I felt nervous about facing my first sea swim or breakers that appeared harder than I’d swum in before I would then DEFINTIELY have thought twice about starting if the event suddenly lost its sanctioned status

  4. Can you be clear if ChatGPT was used to generate some of this, or as a starting point? Particularly on the 5 bullet points at the start.

    The specifics of what a Triathlon Ireland sanction means are important, and solid info seems hard enough to come by without muddying the waters with generalities.

    1. ?
      Those are general points. In the uk events are permitted by British triathlon (I’m from London). I assume that permitted means the same as sanctioned. In the uk a permitted event covers various aspects of organisation and participation however the key points that matter here, if mirrored in Ireland, are safety/security and the various insurances. I suspect you’re not interested in the reputational points.

      Googling gives this info from TI:
      TI Insurance is by http://www.arachas.iela*********@ar*****.ie (public email)

      add this to your general knowledge about law and you can conjure up a piece of content that’s hopefully helpful to some:

      “WHAT IS A TI SANCTIONED EVENT? All TI Sanctioned events are listed on our Race Calendar. If an event is not listed here, it is not a TI Sanctioned event, therefore you are not covered by our insurance at this race.”

      Here’s the BTF equivalent:
      I’m assuming they all fall under ITU umbrella and will appear highly similar across all countries

    2. Regardless of the exact meaning this will likely be one for the lawyers and for the enquiry members. Little info will come from those sources nor I imagine from the coroner, for quite some time. I don’t think you’ll get the definitive definitions you want now when applied to the precise circumstances on the day

  5. In my opinion you can’t rely on athletes to individually make the decision to DNS in these scenarios. They’ve paid a lot of money and also there’s a bit of herd mentality too. Plus the assumption of good safety cover.

    I’d say I’m not that great a swimmer. I’d do that HIM distance in around 35-40 minutes if it was easy conditions. 100% I would have still gone in given the video, as I’m fairly water confident and I’d assume there would be safely cover, plus all the other pressures around the event (money, training, maybe people I know spectating). If they’d have made the decision to cancel or shorten the swim there’s no decision for the athlete to make.

    I’m kinda torn about this really as it does sort of sound like the organisers were caught out. Someone in my club suggested there was a harbour option that they didn’t use?

  6. If I was swimming on my own with no cover or event, I definitely wouldn’t have gone in in conditions like that. It’s pretty wild that it went ahead without approval.

    1. you’re making some good points there which I’m sure ring true with many others.

      With breaking waves seemingly over head height only a select few would venture in the water on their own.

      so it’s the security of the rescue cover by the organisers that makes you go in plus, probably, a desire not to ‘waste’ all those months of hard training. That desire probably would dampen my commonsense meter too.
      there was a mini course venue change as well as a course shortening. perhaps also a mid-race further shortening.

  7. My husband took part in this event on Sunday. He is a competent sea swimmer and well used to swimming in Youghal bay. We were surprised the swim went ahead and despite my husband thinking the sea was very rough, he placed his full faith and trust in the organisers that it was safe enough for competitors to get into the water. There was no inkling that Triathlon Ireland had not sanctioned the swim, otherwise he would not have set foot in the water.
    Once out there, he likened the conditions to being in a washing machine with people including himself being tossed around. At one point a kayak approached him and others and said that the route had suddenly been changed and they now had to only go to the closer yellow buoy. There was no way competitors already in the water would have heard this announcement about the route change so it was chaos and confusion.
    As a bystander, it was clear to see how quick many of the athletes were getting into difficulty. There were numerous people floating on their backs with their hands up calling for help and we were screaming from the shore and pointing trying to alert the attention of the safety crews who could not see them because they kept bring dragged under the high waves . It was extremely traumatic for everyone.
    My thoughts and prayers are with the families of Ivan and Brendan, this swim should never have gone ahead.

  8. Ironman are a $730 million business owned by a Chinese Multi conglomerate. The organisers are totally focused on maximising profit over Athlete safety, they rely on the trusting triathlete signing thier ‘Wavier,’ that hypothetically protects IM from ANY responsibility whatsoever on Athlete safety. I know this first hand after successfully suing Ironman for injuries sustained in one of their events! I pray for the families of the two guys who died in the water at Cork????

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