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Kelowna's Apple Triathlon named national elite-level race

'Tri' an apple: Fred Steele, president of the BC Fruit Growers' Association, and Richard Montgomery, Apple Triathlon president, got together Tuesday to announce the latest twists and turns in the race and the corporate sponsorship the pair have put together to hold the event.
— image credit: Jennifer Smith

How do you like them apples, organizers seemed to ask as they unveiled two giant apple-shaped buoys and a host of updates and changes to Kelowna's signature sporting event—the Apple Triathlon.

Kelowna will be the national championship for the elite-level sprint-distance triathletes this year and a paralympic qualifying event, although the city will miss out on the national championships for the Olympic event, the biggest event in the sport.

Staged two weeks before The International Triathlon World Triathlon Grand Final in Edmonton, however, organizers of the Apple Triathlon say they're hoping the race serves as a warm-up for some big names international athletes.

"We're expecting athletes from a number of different countries to come, do their travelling, get oriented to the time zones and the climate. So we could have a very full and exciting field out this year," said organizer Richard Montgomery, a lawyer with Montgomery Miles by trade.

Run entirely by volunteers, the Apple draws $8 to $10 million in tourism spinoffs for the Central Okanagan annually, but consistently struggles to fill its volunteer compliment, trouble which has, at times, threatened to cancel the event.

This year organizers are hoping to head the turmoil off at the pass by launching sign-up for the 1000 volunteer positions on the Apple website early. The City of Kelowna is also developing a program to help support the society in this regard in years to come.

Working with RC Strategies, event development supervisor Mariko Siggers said the city has had the volunteer-support database on its radar for some time and hopes to launch within the next couple of months, helping some of the events on the calendar in Kelowna this year.

The triathlon has also traditionally partnered with the business community for financial backing and has made a profitable connection with BC Tree Fruits.

"…It's one of those events that allows us to really showcase the valley," said Fred Steele, president of BC Tree Fruits.

The apple growers have provided a bag of apples to the athletes on the podium in years gone by and use the event to highlight the Sunrise apple, a sweet fall varietal available early August to mid-September.

"It gives us a chance, as well, to really showcase the fruit and the things that we produce to a worldwide audience," said Steele.

The fruit growers will make an even bigger splash of their participation this year with two enormous inflatable apples, which will be used in place of the usual red buoys.

The Apple Triathlon attracts 1500 participants and this will be the 32nd race. The triathlon was initiated by John Hindle, a former mayor of the City of Kelowna, and it hosted the very first world championships in the sport in 1988. The event was unofficial, but precipitated the formation of the International Triathlon Union and the first official World Championships in France in 1989.

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