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Challenge Family restructures management team

Challenge Family will be moving its headquarters to Almere, The Netherlands as it creates a new board of directors to manage and operate the global race series. The move sets the company up to better be able to service its existing races while looking to expand its global reach.

Challenge-Family’s Zibi Szlufcik announces the Championship in Samorin, Slovakia. Szlufcik is now the President of the Challenge Family Board of Directors. Photo: Kevin Mackinnon

The new management structure is made up of a four-man board of directors. Former Challenge Family CEO, Zibi Szlufcik, becomes president of the board, while Jort Vlam becomes the CEO, Jefry Visser becomes the chief operating officer (COO) and Richard Belderok serves as the chief technical officer (CTO).

Challenge Family race directors at their recent meeting in Daytona, Florida.

The Challenge Family series includes almost 40 events around the world. The first Challenge event took place in Roth, Germany in 2002. Formerly an Ironman event, the race organizers put the race on independently over differences with the Florida-based company. In 2007 Challenge Wanaka was born, beginning the Challenge Family series. The series grew to include 45 races at one point and appears to be on its way to that number or more in the near future. Yesterday we reported on a new event launched in China.

Since 2013 Vlam, Visser and Belderok have been organizing Challenge Almere. The three grew up as triathletes in Almere and were saddened to see Europe’s oldest triathlon event in decline – when Vlam competed in the 2012 race, he was shocked to see there were just 500 athletes in the half- and full-distance races combined.

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The trio have since turned Challenge Almere into one of Europe’s most successful races – the race now attracts over 3,500 athletes, has hosted seven ETU championships and will host the ITU Multisport World Championships in September.

“Since we were kids, we’ve been watching triathletes doing great things in Almere year after year,” Vlam says. “This inspired us to focus our future careers within the sport of triathlon. Triathlon is in our DNA. Through the years, these dreams became reality and we created world class events ourselves. We are grateful for the opportunity to further develop what has been started by our friends of the Walchshöfer family in Roth, Germany: Challenge Family.”

Vlam, Visser and Belderok had already been taking on a greater role in the Challenge Family business structure.

“Here in Almere, we were already leading the quality team and the marketing team,” says Vlam. “This is a logical next step that allows us to take care of operations so that Zibi can take care of developing the series. He will be able to focus on partnerships on a global level.”

Does the new management structure signal a move to try and make the Challenge Family series more competitive with Ironman? Not at all, says Vlam.

“I think the strength of Challenge Family is that we look at our own strengths. What are we doing with our athletes, volunteers and spectators to ensure that everyone has a great experience. We are family of race directors around the world that have the same goals and values. This is about our own values and strengths, not competition with another brand.”