Ironman Blames Triathlon Ireland & Cork Council Blames Ironman

Ironman Blames Triathlon Ireland & Cork Council Blames Ironman

So much for the usual strategy of not commenting until an internal review is complete. Ironman has quickly realised that its reputational future is on the line and that a financially meaty lawsuit against them could be in the offing. Cork Council has also broken cover to quickly blame Ironman.

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

Here are some more details and thoughts


from Cork Council

Source: Cork County Council

Cork Council (CC) state that Ironman Group has “sole responsibility” for the management and coordination of the event plus the responsibility to run it with “due care, skill and attention.” It elaborates further by saying,

The responsibility of Ironman extends to providing all race-related equipment, supplies, personnel (including volunteers and a local race director), training of personnel (including volunteers), Racecourse set-up, route determination and design and all other technical and operational aspects of the race.

Cork Council go on to say that its responsibilities lie only with the organisation of road closure permits, and the provision for use by Ironman certain council facilities in Youghal. They elaborate in more detail to say that they are responsible for the provision of cleansing operations, waste collection, utilities and storage areas plus noting that it also provided public conveniences and arranged a food market for the weekend event. To tie up a seemingly exhaustive list it also states it provided the lead vehicle for the bike route.

Summing this up, the Council is saying “Nothing to see here folks, it’s entirely Ironman’s fault.”.



from Ironman

An initial statement by Triathlon Ireland stated that the race was not sanctioned. As I indicated yesterday that whilst this might not affect who is ultimately responsible, running an unsanctioned event could well be negligent when the proper authority (Triathlon Ireland) said conditions were not suitable/dangerous.

Ironman does not seem to dispute that the race was not sanctioned however Ironman Group now points out that it was not told about this until after the race started. Here are excerpts from its statement,


Weather conditions for this past weekend’s Ironman Ireland, Cork and Ironman 70.3 Ireland, Cork were monitored carefully. On Saturday morning, Ironman Ireland officials and swim safety experts declared the swim course unsuitable for racing and decided to reschedule the Ironman 70.3 triathlon for Sunday, alongside Ironman Ireland, Cork to provide a safer race for athletes.

On the morning of Sunday 20 August, Ironman Ireland officials and the specific on-swim safety team carried out all standard safety protocol checks that are completed at every race and determined water conditions were safe for the swim to take place. While conditions were improved from Saturday, out of an abundance of safety, it was decided to shorten the swim course for both races.

As such, federation representatives were present during the event and performed their duties. Several hours after the swim was completed, they communicated to the onsite Ironman Ireland officials that they would not approve the sanctioning for the event.

Thus if blame exists, Ironman appears not to be saying there should be less blame but rather that Triathlon Ireland should also take some of it.

Fair enough.

Let’s see how this pans out. Perhaps it was the formal email that arrived after the swim had finished? Perhaps Triathlon Ireland will say the on-swim safety team (which organisation do these people represent and in what capacity?) advised Ironman Ireland verbally that the race shouldn’t go ahead? Perhaps the on-swim safety team then talked to Triathlon Ireland who then sent the email or made the call. All these ‘perhapses’ just reiterate why it’s often best to wait for the outcome of internal and legal enquiries as new information often claims to answer some questions but raises others.

2 triathletes die – Ironman Ireland 70.3


The sports media is largely silent about this. You have to wonder how many of them are concerned about future advertising revenues from Ironman. From what I have seen almost all the coverage is from ‘mainstream’ news sources.

I have also asked some of Ironman’s sponsors/partners for their thoughts and also from a few other interested parties…#Silence.

Take Out

I think it’s fair to say that Ironman’s lawyers are involved as well as the PR team.

Ironman has admitted that it was present at the safety inspection. I would have thought that the reason for the removal of sanctioning would have been clearly visible at the time of the inspection.

Image|Ironman FB Page

However, timelines are important and it is not beyond the realms of possibility that changing tides/currents affected the wave conditions, say, an hour after the inspection. Note: The inspection would have been before the Pro Start and the Age Groupers started last. We might then see information about the official start times in relation to the time of the inspection – but I have received comments here about a further delayed start time beyond the published time and we would also have to factor in the time of the last sea-entry and the conditions at that time.

Image|Cathal Shaw via RTE


All said, the race could have been stopped at any time. If you were the Race Director at the swim start and saw the last, weakest swimmers going into breakers shown in the image above would you have let things continue?

I also want to point out again that one of the deceased,  65-year-old Ivan Chittenden has a Linked profile showing he is a more than competent triathlete and a swimmer of over a decade.

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

So., that’s more IMs and HIMs than you, right? I’m pretty sure we all want our races to be sensibly safe and what risks we knowingly take.







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18 thoughts on “Ironman Blames Triathlon Ireland & Cork Council Blames Ironman

  1. It’s a tragedy that two people drowned.

    I was taken aback when Ironman broke ranks with indecent haste to claim, ‘It ain’t me’.

    I am not sure what to think. My thoughts are with the families of the departed.

  2. Its always the blame game with you people two men lost there lives here all you are worried about who is to blame you all need to take responsibility for this incident and to make sure something like this never happens again

    1. agreed but taking responsibility here means potentially taking a multi-million dollar hit. Ironman could, I assume, afford that, Triathlon Ireland less so – assuming that damages wont be covered by insurance.
      the reputational loss could be even greater in monetary terms to Ironman.

  3. Is the cause of death 100% sure I wonder…. Autopsies done?
    Also very sceptical about the idiocy of the media. What used to be a minority style appreciated by lower class people nowadays is mainstream….
    Risks are everywhere too. I didn’t yet hear how many participants there were….

    1. from memory there were at least 2000 competitors.
      The autopsy i think was undertaken yesterday (Monday) I don’t know the procedures, I would imagine the coroner’s court (or Irish equivalent) would need to rule on the cause of death based on the autopsy and other evidence. That will be some time away.
      The media coverage seems highly limited & repetitive & lacks insight. That is why people turn to social media (reddit, not necessarily here per se). The media just regurgitate press releases and don’t have time to offer anything more except in certain types of story (not this type of story which has a peripheral interest range).

  4. Unfortunately, there is a known association of sudden death in the swimming part of triathlons. As I recall some if not most deaths were cardiac in origin triggered by cold water etc. That said, the entry to the swim looked challenging and one can only think the rest was similarly difficult swimming. It would be interesting to hear what participants said about the swim. Condolences to the two families for their loss.

  5. Condolences to both families that are suffering a loss. Very sad news. It’s all over the news here in Australia

  6. Thank you for continuing with your measured coverage. It has only hit the news in Toronto, Canada today with a front page story in the Toronto Star. We have been relying heavily on your information to synthesize the available reports, as well as the comments from some of the participants and spectators who have posted here.

    1. Perhaps look on Reddit for more info.
      You might be able to find lots more smaller tidbits there and piece them together to form a clearer story. Whether or not that’s needed I don’t know. I don’t know how exhaustive the race and legal investigations will be…you’d hope they would be VERY exhaustive.

  7. Have been following this since Sunday, what an awful trajedy, those poor men and their families. Quick point I’ve not seen highlighted in media. The swim was cancelled in 2019, Ironman’s first outing in Cork. I was there, it was bad, much worse than Sunday, very high swells, heavy wind and rain continued all day then for the bike and run. That said, it still took Ironman over 3hrs to call the swim. The heavy rain bucketed down on 1000+ openly exposed athletes for three hours. We were sopping wet, freezing and teeth chattering starting on the bike, I’ll never forget it. Reminder, 1 in 4 finished that year, hundreds pulled up. Anyway, point being, I’m not convinced the Ironmans decisions are primarily based on safety, but rather image.think about it, there is a pressure to roll out a successful event to maintain a certain image. It had been clear to every athlete in 2019 we couldn’t go out for the swim, it would have been carnage, yet it took 3hrs to call it. Think about Ironman Cork’s run thus far: 2019 – no swim 2020 + 2021 COVID; 2022 – Ok. I believe its fair to assume a pressure on Ironman decision-makers to proceed Sunday and avoid a history of only full Ironman Cork in 5 years.

    1. Yes, this particular event has felt more raw to me than others, maybe because of the proximity? maybe because 99.9% of Irish people I’ve met are pretty decent, fun people.

      I recall 5ish years ago the swim was cancelled at IM Hamburg (or somewhere in Germany) because of either water temp (high) or algae. so it’s not that these decisions are never made as you point out.

      Rain/Bike – I mean, toughen up! If you’ve done duathlons in February you’ll know to bring warmer/drier clothing. however if said rain has caused debris on the track then that would be a reason to cancel as would high winds or perhaps torrential, pooling rain. Calling off races sometimes must be a tricky call but that’s the job for the guys/girls in charge and we must hope that they’ve prepared contingencies and red flags in advance of race day.

      1. Toughen up! Ha, Ive raced tougher and longer ultras. I did sound a bit winey though ????. Re: from experience, top gear helps, but in 11hr + events, its not keeping you dry or warm, just more adaptable to changing conditions. Brass tax, I really don’t think they should have been sent out. Here in Cork, it seems to be all people are talking about. There is no shortage of athlete accounts, even the guys on the kayaks who could barely stay up. I just can’t see how they make it back to Cork next year. Good platform, great comments.

  8. I took part in Ironman Barcelona in 2018 and 2021 when the waves / swell were pretty brutal and even the pros were having a tough time getting into the water (see video below).

    I recall Ironman giving people the option to skip the swim in the 2021 race. This may have been partly driven by the pandemic and the difficulty some people had faced training in the open water. Were people given the choice to just do the bike and run at Cork? If not, it seems strange that the policies are not consistent between races when sea condition are particularly rough.

  9. Hi from America. I competed in this years Cork 70.3 and the swim conditions were very challenging, even dangerous. I thought once I got past the breakers it would get easier and it really didn’t. Although one s were made the turn and headed for home we were with the current and waves the conditions were still very rough. I’ve since seen some video and I’m glad I didn’t get injured or worse. All that aside the people of Youghal are the most welcoming I’ve ever met. A great big thank you to them.

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