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Athletes lash out over video message from Ironman CEO

Race update outlines challenges of putting on events during the pandemic

Photo by: Kevin Mackinnon

Ironman posted an update message from CEO Andrew Messick on Facebook yesterday, which has been met with a lot of frustration from athletes over the company’s refund and transfer policy.

In the four-minute video, Messick acknowledges that “we all want to get back to racing – I want to get back to racing,” and outlines the challenges the organization is facing to put on events during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Related: Ironman gets win in COVID-19 refund lawsuit

“Ultimately the combination of virus vaccination, travel restrictions and appetite for our host communities to be prepared to have mass gatherings for sport is going to determine our ability to have races, and those factors differ in virtually every country, every state, every territory around the world,” Messick says.

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Messick also acknowledges the frustration many athletes are expressing over the short lead time the company is providing before announcing event postponements.

“We’re sensitive to it and we appreciate it,” Messick says. “But at the same time, if we can make an event happen, we want to. So how do we deal with the uncertainty, because there is going to be uncertainty for the next few months until the COVID situation stabilizes … all any of us can do is stay mentally and physically strong. Rely on your training clubs, your coaches, your training partners on your families to maintain focus, maintain discipline and put yourself in a position so that when we’re able to safely conduct events again, you’re ready.”

Related: Ironman athletes lash out over lack of refunds

While some of the over two hundred comments that appeared after the post were supportive of Ironman, most were extremely critical, especially over the company’s refund and transfer policies. Ontario’s Barbara Marinoni expressed her frusration based on how things are going here in Canada:
“I asked to defer IM Venice to 2022 as the borders are closed to Canadians and the Canadian gov has imposed such tight restrictions, it’s impossible to travel. I got a fat No from IM and had to withdraw losing a pile of hard earned $. Not to mention the hotel deposit I can’t get back booked through the IM travel provider. Shame on me for registering thinking things would be better. PS also have money invested since 2019 for races in 2020 that have been deferred. Sincerely, frustrated in Ontario.”

“Blah x3,” wrote Giles Atkinson. “The only words you didn’t use were the ones we heard loudest: ‘We’re not giving anyone, anywhere, any options.’ Not customer-centric, yet entirely predictable.”

“If you really care about the athletes, you would cancel early and return the money. 😡,” says Miguel Angel Rodriguez.

“It’s difficult for event organisers – I get that 100%,” writes James Potter. “But please don’t wait until the last POSSIBLE moment to be able to put a race on. (like you said in this update). Wait until the most REASONABLE moment. Giving athletes notice to adjust travel arrangements, cancel hotels, sort out works commitments, adjust training plans, race schedules…etc. I’m sure if you adopted this policy going forwards – and over communicated, instead of under communication- the tone of comments on this thread would be more sympathetic.”

“I’m very disappointed in Ironman, so much that my race in June will be my last with the corporation,” says Kait Elf. “I was not offered race registration for my entry to Eagleman in June. On the registration page under “registration protection” it said “coming soon!” When I reached out to the company, it took 2 months to receive the “oh sorry, it’s available to athletes registering now but cannot be retroactively purchased. Has anyone else had this experience?”