It’s a slippery slope for Ironman events in the country given how the Philippines is dealing with the situation right now

By Nicole Ganglani  | Photo by Javier Lobregat

Last May, Ironman group was reportedly sued for not refunding its participants after many of their races around the world were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite growing concerns of participants and the rise of COVID-19 cases, Ironman CEO Andew Messick made it clear that there will still be triathlon races in 2020—thus, offering refunds isn’t their priority just yet.

One race set to resume this year is the Century Tuna Ironman Philippines in Subic (one of the three races that take place in the country annually) happening on October 25. Ironman Subic, which was supposed to happen in June 2020, released a statement via Facebook that its organizers are focused on delivering a safe and, in their own words, “outstanding” race for those involved. The statement also indicated that participants who cannot make it in October have the option to compete in another Ironman race in a different location instead. 

“At this point, athletes who were affected by the rescheduled event have been provided options to race on a new date, or race within 12 months in other selected locations. Ironman Philippines has been and will continue to adhere to the global Ironman guidelines, providing athletes with options as mentioned on our website,” wrote the Ironman Group on a Facebook post

Dear Athletes,We hope you are keeping well and safe during this time. With 4 months to go till IRONMAN Philippines, we…

Posted by Century Tuna IRONMAN Philippines on Sunday, June 21, 2020

This statement did not sit well with multiple triathlon teams around the world. reported that more than 300 participants from countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines are demanding a refund. The race fee is reportedly worth P35,000 which several triathletes want to use for more urgent matters right now.

“A refund would be a humane gesture [on the] side [of race organizers],” Filipino International Triathletes president Rolando Seprado told “Sunrise [should] consider a humanitarian resolution,” Seprado added. 

Sunrise Events, the main organizer of Philippine triathlon events since 2019, has also made it clear that it won’t refund participants. According to Sunrise Events General Manager Princess Galura, the event organizers are just following the rules of the World Ironman group and therefore cannot make any changes for Ironman Subic in particular. Galura encouraged participants to “trust the brand” as they aim to organize a safe race for triathletes. 


To tri or not to tri? 

As of writing, the Philippines has more than 35,000 coronavirus cases and there is no clear time table on when a vaccine will be available. Although not affiliated with Ironman, The Philippine Sports Commission has also said multiple times that there should not be any sports events held in the country until athletes are protected with the coronavirus vaccine.

It’s a slippery slope for Ironman events in the country this year given how the Philippines is dealing with the situation right now. The International Triathlon Union  has already released its COVID-19 prevention guidelines for event organizers, which Messick says could likely be enforced in Ironman events. However, even with strict social distancing and other safety measures implemented, it’s still a dangerous time for triathletes to compete knowing that not everyone will be vaccinated right away.

It’s a slippery slope for Ironman events in the country this year given how the Philippines is dealing with the situation right now

Next Step Triathlon  team coach and triathlete Dan Brown says that triathlon races can only go back to how it used to be if there are no more coronavirus cases in the country. Brown told early in June that he expects PH triathlon events to take place only by February 2021, depending on how the country manages the crisis.

While there’s no better feeling in the world for sports enthusiasts than to experience live events again, it’s also important to remember that the Philippines has yet to defeat this global pandemic. Think about this: Will sports events (that require a crowd and a group of organizers) help solve the health crisis or only contribute to the growing number of cases every day? Ironman Subic may still be four months away, but one thing’s for sure—the Philippines is not ready to host a global sports event just yet.