SIX Port Elizabeth athletes will face the ultimate in Ironman endurance events when they compete in the world championships in Kona, Hawaii, tomorrow.
The six – Terry Thornton, Mariette Hattingh, Paul Wolff (all 45-49), Dan Howitz (25-29), and Garth Wright and Gary Stephenson (both 50-54) – will be part of just more than 2000 triathletes who will be involved in one of the toughest events in the world.
Described by Wolff, the Ironman SA race director, as the holy grail of Ironman, the athletes will take on the 3.8km swim, the 180km cycle, and the 42.2km run in stifling conditions, with the temperature sometimes reaching 45°C in the lava fields of Kona.
Wolff was offered a spot in the world champs by his employers World Endurance, who hold the rights to Ironman events worldwide, while Wright and Stephenson have gone to study the fund- raising strategies of their American counterparts.
They have all travelled to Hawaii at their own expense.
At the Ironman SA race, Wright and Stephenson run the Ironman for Kids charity, which has raised millions of rands for various charities over the last nine years. Next year they are aiming to raise a total of R2-million, up from the R1.6-million generated this year.
The remaining three qualified through the SA event in April in PE and will be delighted at the opportunity to test themselves against the best in the world.
They will be joined by another triathlete with PE links in Kyle Buckingham, a former VP pupil who now trains in Cape Town.
Buckingham recently won the 30-34 world title in the 70.3 world champs in Las Vegas and he is now aiming to win the Ironman as part of his route to becoming a professional next year.