The province of British Columbia is in a state of emergency, as a result of more than 500 active forest fires across the region. The resulting poor air quality forced the cancellation of some high-profile races in Canada over the weekend. Notable events to suffer from the poor air quality included the Canadian National Triathlon Championships at the Kelowna Apple Triathlon, as well as Super League Triathlon Penticton in British Columbia.
Super League Triathlon Penticton
The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) levels skyrocketed to a 10+ rating (very high risk) on Friday evening and remained high throughout the weekend. While age group racing at Super League Triathlon Penticton in British Columbia was able to get under way during the early part of the August 17-19 race weekend, the deteriorating air quality forced the cancellation of much of the subsequent racing.
The Super League Triathlon Penticton team released a statement on the race’s Facebook page, and Super League Triathlon (SLT) co-founders Michael D’hulst and Chris McCormack also released a video about the cancellation.
Michael D’hulst, co-founder and CEO of SLT, said “We are hugely disappointed that we had to make the difficult decision to call off all racing [on Sunday], but the safety of our athletes and crew is of paramount importance. We have been closely monitoring the weather and the wildfires, and while we hoped the conditions would improve over the weekend, unfortunately, this was not the case. The athletes have been kept apprised of conditions and our concerns throughout the weekend, and have been fully supportive of the difficult decisions we have made.”
He continued, “Our thoughts are with the firefighters, emergency services and residents who are affected by these fires. While disappointed we weren’t able to bring to Penticton today, the full excitement of the undoubtedly fantastic racing there would have been, ultimately the race is of secondary importance when weighed against the wildfires being tackled across British Columbia.”
Due to the fact that the pros were unable to fully complete any Super League Triathlon format over the weekend, SLT has announced that those who completed the Individual Time Trial (ITT) on Friday, will be invited to the opening Championship Series race in Jersey. The prize money that would have been awarded at Penticton, will now be used to contribute to flights for the athletes to get to Jersey, where they can race against the other 20 pros who have already booked their places. The top five from the Penticton crew post-Jersey, will be offered the chance to continue the series.
Super League Canada was the first SLT event to visit North America and was designed to be the final chance for the pros to grab a ‘Golden Ticket’ – a lucrative contract for the Championship Series races.
Kelowna Apple Triathlon
Taking place on August 19-19, the event was the planned host of the Canadian National Triathlon Championships and a 2018 CAMTRI Continental Cup across the Super Sprint and Sprint distances. The Kelowna Apple Triathlon was an Official 2018 Age Group World Championship Qualifying Event for the 2019 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Sadly, the poor Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) forced Kelowna Apple Triathlon and Triathlon Canada officials to cancel Sunday’s scheduled age group and CAMTRI races.
Consulting regularly with local health care officials, the emergency risk management team at the Kelowna Apple Triathlon has been on high alert. Race officials originally cancelled all of Saturday races including the 2018 National Championships. A modified ITU CAMTRI Continental Cup race was put back on Sunday’s schedule for elite athletes, but health risks remained too high.
“To say we are disappointed is a huge understatement,” said Susie Ernsting, Race Director for Apple Triathlon. “This weekend of racing was a culmination of months of hard work from the dedicated volunteers, Board of Directors, and hard working athletes. We were so excited to have the Apple return to Kelowna, and it is beyond devastating that we are unable to do any races. We hope to regroup for 2019 and appreciate the triathlon community’s understanding these circumstances are outside of our control.”
“We are obviously disappointed to have to cancel races today, but the health and safety of our athletes, volunteers and spectators are our number one priority,” said Kelowna Apple Triathlon Society Chair Matt Canzer. “When the air quality health index is like this it’s just not safe to engage in strenuous outdoor activity. We appreciate everyone’s understanding and support. We look forward to welcoming everyone back in 2019 for an excellent race and we hope we can count on the community to join us.”
Triathlon Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee will adjust the Pan American Games selection criteria for Canadian athletes that were connected with the National Championships/CAMTRI race. Triathlon Canada will update all impacted participants, along with its provincial partners, as soon as the new criteria is completed.
“This is obviously an unfortunate series of events that Mother Nature has dealt us,” said Kim Van Bruggen, Chief Executive Officer at Triathlon Canada. “The National Championships is the lone event of the year that brings all of us in the Triathlon Canada Nation together, but the protection, safety and health of our athletes, coaches and volunteers is our number one priority – always.”
Van Bruggen continued, “We can’t thank Susie Ernsting and her team at the Apple enough for their passion, commitment and tireless work in trying to pull this off. The Apple is one of the most prestigious events on the calendar and we hope to see our nation’s best racing here again in the very near future.”