‘We got Ironman’: St. George gets the nod to host 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship; full Ironman returns

ST. GEORGE — St. George has been selected as host for the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship triathlon, according to an announcement made during a press conference at the Ironman athlete village Thursday. In addition to being selected as the host site for the 2021 event, Ironman officials also announced the return of the full distance Ironman course to St. George.

President and CEO of Ironman, Andrew Messick announces the selection of St. George as the host site for the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship as well as the return of the full Ironman to St. George at a press conference held in Ironman Village located at Town Square Park, St. George, Utah, May 2, 2019 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

St. George is already the current host of the Ironman 70.3 North American Pro Championship and will welcome its 10th Ironman or Ironman 70.3 triathlon Saturday.

The much anticipated announcement was greeted with enthusiastic cheers from the gathered crowd of triathletes, city and county officials and fans who have been hoping for the news that St. George would host the world’s best since narrowly losing the bid to Chattanooga, Tennessee, which hosted the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in 2017.

“We’ve always been fans of St. George and of Washington County. We love the community, we love the hospitality, we love the race courses,” Andrew Messick, president and CEO of Ironman said. “We really felt that St. George was the strongest candidate in this cycle and the best place for our global community of athletes to congregate in 2021.”

The Ironman site selection team spent March 25 and 26 touring the St. George area and meeting with city and Washington County leaders. Their visit culminated with an overview of the current Ironman 70.3 St. George course, after which the committee thought they were heading out to dinner, Ironman official Diana Bertsch told St. George News at the time.

Instead the committee was brought to Town Square Park where the gathered crowd enthusiastically greeted them, chanting “we want Ironman,” and sporting Ironman branded gear and triathlon kits.

After the announcement was made Thursday, St. George Mayor Jon Pike led the crowd in an updated chant, shouting “we got Ironman.”

The announcement was a culmination of the hard work of many people in the community, most of whom have been part of bringing an Ironman event to St. George for nearly a decade, Kevin Lewis, director of the Washington County Tourism, said.

“It’s fun to finally get it out and share with everyone the great accomplishment we’ve done,” he said. “And when I say ‘we’ I mean everyone has done that. There’s so many people involved in this that make this possible and so it’s just now fun to be able to say, ‘Yeah, we did it.'”

Pike echoed those sentiments in his address to the crowd and said that this race truly touches all of Washington County from the swim start in Hurricane to the bike course that goes through several of the county’s cities and the run that finishes on Main street in St. George.

The 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship race will be held in September and will be in addition to the race held in May.

Return of the full Ironman

At the press conference Messick also announced a five-year venue agreement between Ironman and Washington County which has the area hosting six races in those five years, including the return of a full Ironman course to St. George.

A sign announces the selection of St. George as the host site for the 2021 Ironman 70.3 World Championship, St. George, Utah, May 2, 2019 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

The new full distance Ironman triathlon – 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run – will rotate between a series of cities across North America, beginning with St. George in 2020. The rotation will bring host cities a full-distance Ironman triathlon every three years with St. George again hosting the event in 2023, according to an Ironman press release.

At the conference Lewis spoke to the crowd about how gut-wrenching it felt to lose the full distance Ironman after the 2012 race – Washington County hosted the full Ironman in 2010, 2011 and 2012 before changing to the Ironman 70.3 distance. But, Lewis said, he felt like the Ironman 70.3 event challenged Washington County to grow and become a site that could host the Ironman 70.3 World Championship as well as a full distance Ironman.

“It’s almost like having twins,” Lewis said. “You kind of forget how difficult these things are to do and what a challenge they are but you know the love in your heart for both of them.”

Messick said that Ironman St. George always had a strong following in large part because it is a really hard race.

“It appeals to a certain type of athlete,” Messick said.

St. George and Washington County will host the 10th Ironman or Ironman 70.3 event Saturday. This year’s race will feature a packed field of professionals as well as the biggest field of age group racers the event has seen, Lewis said. Nearly 3,000 triathletes are set to toe the line Saturday starting at 7 a.m. at Sand Hollow Reservoir in Sand Hollow State Park.

“This is the 10th anniversary of Ironman St. George,” Lewis said. “What a legacy.”

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.


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