Approximately 4,500 of the world’s top athletes began to bolt into action in Chattanooga on Saturday morning as the 2017 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship got underway.
The women were competing on Saturday in the swim/bike/run marathon. The men's event is Sunday.
Crowds were lining the spectacular routes that included downtown Chattanooga, the historic Walnut Street Bridge, up and down Lookout Mountain and through scenic Chattanooga Valley and the historic town of Chickamauga, Ga.
Some sections were organizing block parties, including Lookout Mountain, Ga., at the junction of Lula Lake Road and Ochs Highway.
The event returns to U.S. soil for the first time in four years, and also marks the first time that the event will take place over two days. IRONMAN, a Wanda Sports Holding company, has produced this world-class event since 2006, with global rotation beginning in 2014.
“With its dramatic backdrop, striking riverfront and fast swim course through the Tennessee River, Chattanooga is well-equipped to play host to the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship this September,” said Andrew Messick, chief executive officer for IRONMAN. “This is a historic year for this event with the largest athlete field ever for any IRONMAN 70.3 event, while also creating a first with a two-day IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship allowing for focus of the female race on Saturday and male race on Sunday. We look forward to providing our athletes with an exceptional race experience in this great host location.”
With athletes hailing from 90 countries, regions and territories, North America leads the way with 52 percent of the athletes registered to race in the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship. Following North America, Europe accounts for 25 percent, while Asia-Pacific accounts for 12 percent of the field.
The United States of America is the most represented nation with 1,853 registered competitors, followed by Canada (264), Australia (232) and the United Kingdom (213). Other athletes from countries as far as Indonesia, Kazakhstan and Serbia are traveling around the globe for their shot at the title.
This year, returning age group champions from the 2016 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship on the women’s side include Janine Willis (CAN), Katrine Amtkjaer Nielsen (DNK), Lesley Tuggle (USA) and Raeleigh Harris (AUS). On the men’s side, returning age group champions include Brian Boyle (NZL), Harry Barnes (CAN), Rodolphe Von Berg (BEL) and Ryan Giuliano (USA).
With breathtaking scenery, Chattanooga is a supreme location for a fall sporting event. The 2017 field of athletes will tackle a 1.2-mile (1.9 km) ocean swim in the Tennessee River, followed by a 56-mile (90 km) bicycle ride through Lookout Mountain and into downtown Chattanooga, capped with a 13.1-mile (21 km) run through Downtown Chattanooga along the Tennessee Riverwalk and Riverfront Parkway, finishing at Ross’s landing – all of which must be completed before an eight-and-a-half-hour cutoff time.
In order to qualify for the 2017 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, more than 185,000 age-group athletes competed to earn slots at over 100 IRONMAN 70.3 events held worldwide.
Additional historical facts and stats on the field competing in the 2017 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Chattanooga:
Chattanooga is the sixth city in history to host the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship following Clearwater, Florida (USA) (2006-2009), Henderson, Nevada (USA) (2010-2013), Mont-Tremblant, Quebec (CAN) (2014), Zell am See-Kaprun, SalzburgerLand (AUT) (2015), and Mooloolaba, Queensland (AUS) (2016)
62 percent of registered participants (2,801 athletes) are male
38 percent of registered participants (1,713 athletes) are female
43 is the average age of male registrants, and 41 is the average age of female registrants
Bob Scott (USA) is the oldest participant at 86, while Enrico Piseuna (PHL) and Aaria Alejandra Aguilar (CRI) are the youngest at 18
10 athletes will be celebrating their birthdays on race day
48 of the 50 U.S. states are accounted for, with the greatest number hailing from California (279), Florida (151), Texas (150), New York (116) and Colorado (103)
More than 185,000 registered athletes compete in IRONMAN 70.3 races each year
Since the series began in 2006, the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship has been controlled by Australia (five champions), Germany (five champions) and Great Britain (three champions). The United States and Switzerland have had two winners, while Canada, New Zealand and Spain each have one winner
Over 2,000 volunteers will help make the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship a success
The 2017 IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship can be viewed race day on www.ironman.com and features IRONMAN Live, a hosted online show with extensive, in-depth coverage of the professional race.