A month after postponing the 2021 Ironman World Championship to Feb. 5, 2022, Ironman officials have changed course, deciding to move the event from Kailua-Kona to St. George, Utah.
Ironman made the announcement Thursday morning in collaboration with Greater Zion and St. George, Utah officials, as well as local and state Hawaii officials. The new date for the 2021 World Championship will be May 7, 2022.
“The ongoing uncertainty regarding Kailua-Kona, Hawaii’s ability to host the event in February required a change in venue to outside of Hawaii for the first time since the inaugural event in 1978,” said the Ironman Group in a press release.
This marks the first time in the race’s history the 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and 26.2-mile run will take place outside the state of Hawaii. The first Ironman World Championship was held on Oahu in 1978 before moving to Kailua-Kona in 1981.
The event is set to return to the Big Island in October 2022 with a new, two-day race format. The women’s professional field will expand to 50 athletes and race on Thursday, Oct. 6, while the 50 professional men will race on Saturday, Oct. 8.
“We expect the races in October of 2022 to be unique and historic,” said Andrew Messick, president and CEO for the Ironman Group. “Two days of racing in Kailua-Kona addresses the overwhelming demand from athletes to race in a World Championship and will allow us to host our deferred athletes and place more emphasis on showcasing our women’s and men’s professional races.”
Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said expressed excitement about the potential for two events on the island next October.
”As our island’s premier sporting event, Ironman has been a trusted community partner for over 40 years, and we’re ever grateful for their willingness and ability to adapt to our community’s needs and contribute to its vibrancy,” he said.
Several business leaders made note of the race’s change to a two-day format. Some expressed optimism the new format could help make up for the economic losses sustained in the past two years.
“The loss of the past two Ironman World Championship races certainly dealt us an economic blow. Our restaurants have always received a big boost from the race, athletes, and their families,” said Eric von Platen Luder, principal of Luana Hospitality Group, which operates Huggo’s, On the Rocks, Lava Lava Beach Club, and Kai Eats and Drinks on the leeward side of the Big Island. “We are very excited to hear that with two races next October we can plan to make up for the economic losses from the past two race cancellations.”
Ross Birch, Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau executive director, said the bureau was in full support of the plans.
“While the iconic event has provided long-lasting economic benefits to our island, what’s sometimes missed is the transformation of Kona as a lifestyle destination because of Ironman,” he said. “We are in full support of Ironman’s change to host a two-day race format that enables the opportunity for all qualifying athletes from the past two-plus years to compete as well as giving the local economy a chance to benefit and recoup lost tourism opportunities.”
Ironman also made note of its targeted initiative Kahiau Together to support locals suffering due to food insecurities. Since July 2020, more than 132,000 meals have been served via 25 distribution events.
Three upcoming drive-through events will be held at the Kona International Marketplace on Oct. 4, Nov. 22 and Dec. 20. Those in need are welcome to attend the events, where food bundles of locally-sourced fresh proteins, fruits, vegetable and starches will be distributed.