By Matthew Abrey
Apple Triathlon race organizers admit they are concerned about the varying air quality in the region ahead of this weekend’s competition. But they are adamant that they are doing everything in their power to ensure this year’s 35th anniversary race is as safe as possible for all involved.
“We’re monitoring the air quality health index very closely,” said Matthew Canzer, board chair of the Kelowna Apple Triathlon Society on Friday. “It changes by the hour, and it’s monitored every hour. We’re consulting with the chief medical health officer for Interior Health for the region, so we’re monitoring it, but it is changing. It was as low as four earlier this morning, but it did climb up to nine at some point today, so in that range we’re going to be watching it carefully and making any modifications we need to along the way.”
Canzer added the 2015 and 2016 events also had significant wildfire smoke that affected race conditions, at times quite negatively, however the races still went ahead as planned.
Susie Ernsting, race director for this year’s Kelowna Apple Triathlon, said if conditions get too bad, however, athletes may be forced to cut down their total race distance.
“For all our age group athletes, they have the option of downgrading to shorter distance race if they would like,” she said. “And depending on the health index, we’ve set parameters for whether or not we will require everybody to downgrade to a shorter distance, or if the air quality is too high, then we will look to delay or cancel it.”
This year’s event is particularly special as it was chosen by Triathlon Canada as the national championship event. Ernsting said she understands it can be frustrating for the national-level athletes to have the likely possibility of non-ideal race conditions hanging over their heads, but everyone has been making the best of it so far.
“It’s an unfortunate situation that we’re experiencing all across B.C. with a state of emergency (because of the wildfires), so I think the athletes in general are quite understanding about that,” she said.
“Obviously they have travelled a long way, they’ve put in a lot of training and spent a lot of money to be here in Kelowna, and we have athletes from all over the country here, so it would definitely be disappointing, but I think in the long run, we’re thinking about those who are immediately affected by the fire in their communities.”
The 35th annual Apple Triathlon runs all weekend long, with a number of road closures in effect, mostly in the downtown area. For a list of all road closures, check here.
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