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After an accident: the triathlon president defends the Ironman organizers


Martin Engelhardt, President of the German Triathlon Union, defended the organizers of the Ironman European Championships in Hamburg after the accidental death of a motorcycle pilot. Something like that could happen “at every competition”. Engelhardt also explained why the race was not abandoned.

Engelhardt told Deutschlandfunk that this had to do with the “overall responsibility” of the organizers, “also with regard to the security situation of the overall competition”. “Of course you were also shocked by the accident and of course the death, but you have considered in all directions what the right course of action is now.”

At the time, more than 2,000 people were on the track: “If they had stopped the whole race now, it would have been relatively unpredictable, according to statements from the organizers responsible,” said Engelhardt: “That’s why, despite all the horror, you were too among the people affected, decided to continue the race – with all due respect to the tragic accident that happened.”

The decision not to stop the race was also made by the organizer team in Hamburg and not, as communicated on the day of the race, by the World Triathlon Corporation based in Tampa (Florida), said Engelhardt. He called the organizers experienced, they certainly didn’t take the decision lightly.

Accident happened on a straight road

The accident happened 2:25 hours after take-off on a straight stretch parallel to a dike in Hamburg’s Ochsenwerder district. The ARD live broadcast showed that the motorcyclist with a photographer on his machine overtook other motorcycles and then collided with the oncoming athlete.

According to the police, the 70-year-old motorcyclist died at the scene of the accident, and the 26-year-old athlete was seriously but not fatally injured. The cameraman on the motorcycle suffered shock and, like the triathlete, was taken to a hospital.

Frodeno: “Safety must come first”

Triathlon Olympic champion Jan Frodeno, who finished fourth in the race, says he had a bad feeling on the way out of town. “I told the referee 15 kilometers beforehand that it wouldn’t end well,” said the 41-year-old in an interview with NDR. “I know that this always has to be accompanied by the media, but athlete safety must come first.”

In the ARD live broadcast, former Ironman world champion Sebastian Kienle said as a co-commentator: “There are far too many motorcycles on the road.” There had been concerns even before the race because of the narrow bike course in some places. And Frodeno also underlined: “It was a complete farce. It was so incredibly tight, there are no motorcycles allowed.”

Triathlon in Roth: 40 fewer motorcycles

The organizers of the Challenge Roth were already working on a safer traffic concept before the fatal accident at the Hamburg triathlon. “In Roth there are no out-and-back routes with oncoming traffic. We always try to choose wide streets and not such dams and cobblestone passages,” said Managing Director Felix Walchshöfer to Bayerischer Rundfunk.

At the event on June 25th in Middle Franconia, no external media representatives will be allowed on motorcycles on the bike course. Specifically, there are 40 fewer motorcycles, said Walchshöfer. Photographers would now be driven to the track from the outside.

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Hamburg Journal | 05.06.2023 | 19:30 o’clock