‘You are an Iron …’ Not this Saturday – there will be silence in Kona as defending champs turn page

  • West Hawaii Today file photo Jan Frodeno will seek a fourth Ironman title next year after setting a course record in 2019.

  • Associated Press If not for the pandemic, Germany’s Anne Haug would have preferred to be in Kona on Saturday to defend her Ironman World Championship, but “I think the world goes on,” Haug said. “You can’t change it, so accept it and do the best you can.

A lot can change in a year, especially with the arrival of a global pandemic.

That’s true even for a more than 40-year-old event like the Ironman World Championship. In a few days, it will be the second Saturday of October, and instead of the familiar words that usually ring out in Kailua-Kona until midnight — “You are an Ironman” — there will be silence in town, except maybe the occasional sounds of coqui frogs.

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This weekend, the annual triathlon would have had thousands of triathletes, workers and spectators fill up Kona, turning the sporting world spotlight onto Hawaii Island for one day. Then the race was canceled for the first time in its history due to the coronavirus.

Last year’s top women’s finisher, Anne Haug, would have returned to the island to defend her title, but instead she’s currently in her home country of Germany.

The change in plans doesn’t keep Haug down. Even though she wanted to race, Haug sees the break as a way to “concentrate on the important things in life.”

“I think the world goes on,” Haug said in a video interview for an Ironman virtual broadcast, the Kona Celebration Daily Show. “You can’t change it, so accept it and do the best you can.”

Haug has spent Germany’s shutdown during the coronavirus pandemic training for next year and racing when she can, even if it’s not a triathlon or Ironman event. Haug said she can’t complain about being able to train for next October without any interruptions.

“I was healthy, that’s the most important thing,” Haug said.

The World Championship, a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run, was originally postponed from its Oct. 10 date to Feb. 6, 2021. However, the Feb. 6 date was canceled in July by Ironman when it became clear the coronavirus pandemic would make travel to and from Hawaii difficult and dangerous for athletes.

Haug won last year in a time of eight hours, 40 minutes and 10 seconds. She ended Daniela Ryf’s four-year run as the champion, and was the first woman from Germany to win the race.

She intends to return next year for a chance at a second win.

“You always have expectations obviously on yourself, and it’s not just the pressure you get from the outside, it’s the pressure you put on yourself,” Haug said. “Ironman is a very special race and you can’t plan anything. The only thing you can plan is giving the best you can for that day and be as prepared as possible and then see what happens, and that is exactly what I will do next year.

“If someone’s better than me, then that’s the way it is. But I want to see the finish line, and be happy at the finish line and say it was everything I could have given on that day,” she said.

Three-time Ironman World Championship winner (2015, ‘16 and ‘19) Jan Frodeno is also looking forward to returning to Kona next October and potentially winning a fourth title.

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Frodeno broke the course record in last year’s win with a time of 7:51:13. Frodeno said even with setting a record and not racing at all so far in 2020, he’s still curious how he can perform at the World Championship a year from now.

“Even after last year in Kona, I’m just hungry and looking forward to that feeling of putting your head down and pushing the cranks as hard as I can and just racing,” Frodeno said. “It’s such a pure thing.”

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