ITU athlete Wesley Barnett of England gets his competitor’s package from volunteer Colt Cash at the Rotary Park tent Thursday.                                 Mark Brett/Western News

ITU athlete Wesley Barnett of England gets his competitor’s package from volunteer Colt Cash at the Rotary Park tent Thursday. Mark Brett/Western News

Penticton welcomes the world for ITU Championships

The International Triathlon Union World Multisport Championships Festival is being in Penticton

Whether they sit at a desk hammering away at a keyboard for most of the week or their punchclock consists of how many kilometres logged on a swim, bike or run — athletes of all walks all have a shot at earning an International Triathlon Union Multisport title over the next 10 days.

“That is the best part. Triathlon is different than most sports in that everyone is racing the exact same course from the pros to the weekend warriors,” said Michael Brown, executive director of ITU Multisport World Championships Festival which starts today with the opening ceremony. “Triathlon is unique in that way, unlike hockey or football — every person competing is on the same course whether you are a pro doing this for a living or a recreational athlete and have a day job,” said Brown.

Penticton is welcoming 3,500 people from 36 countries who are all vying for a ITU Multisport title. They will be competing in a number of events (duathlon, aquabike, aquathlon, cross triathlon, long-distance triathlon), the first of those kicking off on Saturday.

“Most are out running and cycling already and are excited to be here and mentioned how beautiful Penticton is,” said Brown. “We hope to give an experience that will blow away every athlete, so it isn’t an option of will they come back to Canada, it is when will they come back to Penticton.”

Marisol Casado, president of the International Triathlon Union, said it is a historical moment in the organizations history as it is the inaugural event bringing five world championships to one place. Next year the event will be handed over to Fyn, Denmark.

Penticton, which Brown said is thought of as the birthplace of long-distance triathlon, is a great place to showcase the inaugural festival. It is also considered to be the blue-ribbon event with a prize purse of $10,000 up for grabs for the first place woman and man. It will be a pair of usual suspects that will have a good shot at it too. Jeff Symonds and Jen Annett, who have won the Challenge Penticton multiple times and are accomplished Ironman athletes, are both in the running along with several other top Canadians in the long distance race on Aug. 27.

Organizers hope to see large crowds out supporting not only the event and the local names but all of the athletes. They are also still looking for volunteers. Those interested can visit penticton2017.com. Alongside the races are a Red and White Canada 150 party at Gyro Park, free and open to the public, on Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. with live music. A family fun run on Aug 24 at 4 p.m. starting on Lakeshore Drive and Martin Street, a street dance on Aug. 25 at 8 p.m. at the west end of Lakeshore Drive and a kids triathlon on Aug. 26 starting at 8 a.m. at the Peach concession on Okanagan Lake.

“We want our community to get out and cheer for these athletes who have worked so hard to get here and to enjoy the other events surrounding the races. We hope the streets will be lined to show the community’s support so it will remain in the athletes’ memories for a long time to come,” said Brown.

After two years of planning, Brown said there is a few things he is looking forward to over the next 10 days.

“I’m really looking forward to the festival starting and helping athletes achieve their goals of becoming world champions in the sport they love. At the same time these events are not just about the fastest athlete, but it is the experience for all of them — down to the slowest one.”

For more information on road closures visit www.pentictonwesternnews.com.

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