For professional triathlete Jen Annett there’s no better homecoming than the return of Subaru Ironman Canada to Penticton in 2020.
Annett was among those celebrating the not-so-secret announcement Tuesday afternoon that the world-class event, which made it’s home in the South Okanagan from 1983 until 2012, will be back again next year.
Annett, along with city officials, Ironman and Subaru executives celebrated the announcement of the five-year deal between the city and Ironman at Rotary Park.
“I’m just super stoked,” said Annett Monday while working on preparations for the announcement. “In my opinion, I think the race belongs here. It was here for 30 years and, I think, put Penticton on the map.”
For her, like many other athletes, the race here was the start of the Ironman journey.
“My husband convinced me in 2006 that I should come down and watch this crazy thing and I was so inspired that I decided to sign up and I raced my first Ironman in 2008 and that was here,” said Annett, who won her age category and a trip to the world championships in Hawaii. “That’s how I got hooked and that was kind of the beginning of the end.
“No there’s no other race like it, there’s just something about it. It’s everything, from the buzz that it brings to the community in the days leading up to the race. There’s just something about it that just makes you want to be one (Ironman).”
The Penticton triathlete also sports the Ironman logo tattoo on her calf, a badge of honour among those who complete their first Ironman.
The 34-year-old eventually went on to become a professional and four top 10 finishes earned her a ticket to the world championship last year for the first time as a pro.
Initial expectations are that there will be about 2,500 athletes taking part in the Aug. 30, 2020 event vying for the 40 qualifying slots for the 2021 world championships. Athlete registration opens July 22 of this year and they will be competing on the same iconic full-distance course.
Mayor John Vassilaki is someone who also knows first-hand the value of Ironman to the city, having served on council for many of the years the race was held in Penticton.
“This was and I believe will still be their flagship event in North America, it’s going to put Penticton back on the map as it used to be for Ironman events,” said Vassilaki, admitting he questioned the city’s loss of the race in 2012. “It’s going to be one of those things that comes along once in a lifetime but fortunately for Penticton it’s twice in a lifetime.
“We’re lucky to get a second chance to bring them back to our community.”
He added the two sides getting back together again, after the event was moved to Whistler, was a mutual arrangement with city staff taking a leading role in the negotiations.
“They (Ironman) never forgot Penticton and they never wanted to leave and I think from year one they wanted to come back but it took all those years,” said Vassilaki. “It’s just so great to have them come home.”
Andrew Messick, president and chief executive officer for The Ironman Group described Penticton as the genesis of Ironman Canada.
“With over 30 years of history, we expect that the return of Ironman Canada to this unique venue will energize both the veteran athlete who participated in the original event and a whole new generation of athletes who will come to experience the Okanagan tradition that has enriched this amazing race venue,” he said in a news release. “With many of the same elements from the original event blended with the enhancements we have made over the years; this race is a must for all athletes.”