City eyes event shark plan
The City of Busselton remains confident ocean-based events like Ironman will continue and says new shark measures could be discussed in the wake of a second major event being stopped because of a shark sighting this year.
Despite some competitors’ disappointment, SunSmart Ironman WA organisers defended the decision to cancel the swim leg of the triathlon at the weekend after a 2.5m shark was spotted 600m offshore about 5.40am.
The event was the second major race to be shortened this year, after the cancellation of the swim leg of the half Ironman event in May.
City of Busselton community and commercial services director Naomi Searle said while specific shark deterrent measures were not considered, they might yet be.
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“This may be a matter for discussion as part of the general post-event debrief,” she said.
“This is an open-water swim leg and there is always a chance of cancellation due to swim conditions or shark activity.” Ironman media manager Noel McMahon acknowledged some athletes were disappointed but said their safety was the focus.
“Extreme weather conditions and the unpredictability of the forces of nature can from time to time require the cancellation of individual legs of an event and the race is executed accordingly,” he said.
Mr McMahon said organisers would continue to work with Surf Life Saving WA and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development to explore practical options and new measures to enhance athlete safety.
“Ironman will continue to look closely into how we evolve any and all event contingency plans,” he said.
Male Pro winner Torenzo Bozzone told the Times organisers made the right decision in cancelling the swim leg and it was not the first time he had competed in an event shortened because of safety issues.
“Everyone wants to do a full Ironman but safety has to come first and the organisers made the right decision,” he said.
“It’s no good risking it when you don’t have to.”
However, local competitors Andrew Hembroff, who was competing in his 22nd Ironman at the weekend, and first-timer Sarah Lang agreed the cancellation took away from the overall event.
“I think there should be some protocols in place, depending on the species of the shark, to allow the event to continue,” Hembroff said.
Lang said she was devastated the swim was cancelled after training for 12 months and paying more than $1000 to enter the event.
“I think organisers need to consider alternate courses,” she said.
“A lot of participants would rather swim parallel to the shore than not at all.” On the day, the WA Government announced Ironman WA would continue to receive funding until 2020.
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