Ironman brings thousands from around the world to Wilmington

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) – It’s a race that tests grit, power, and determination.

The half Ironman brought more than 2,200 athletes from 27 countries to the Cape Fear.

Trent Hayden is President of the Cape Fear Tri Club.

“Just to see all the amazing people do it from all over the world and they come to Wilmington to do this race,” he said.

According to the Vice President of Cape Fear Tri Club Kitty Cole, the event brings the community together through fitness.

“The energy is fantastic, this is a true destination, not to mention what the race brings to our local economy,” she said.

Ana Maria Azorero and Sofia Ramirez traveled from Paraguay, their friends entered the Ironman.

“We’ve never been to North Carolina, we have five friends in the race,” said Ramirez.

Participants had to complete a 1.2-mile ocean swim before the bike portion of the race.

Spectators lined the streets in Wrightsville Beach as athletes headed to the bike station.

From the beach to the countryside, the course took bicyclists on a scenic ride into Pender County crossing the Cape Fear River on the way to historic downtown Wilmington.

Pamela Loo and Trudy Saylor’s husbands’ competed in the race.

“I’m so proud of him, he’s very committed,” said Loo. “It’s something he wanted to do before he completed his degree, then he wants to do a full Ironman.”

“He’s so disciplined, super dedicated,” said Saylor. “We are proud of him, he’s been training every day, for three to four hours a day.”

George Gomez’s wife Samantha took a fall on the bridge during the bike portion of the race, she wasn’t to finish.

“She was really upset,” said Gomez. “She is still a hero for us, and we are still very much, very, very proud of her.”

Cheers welcomed bicyclists to the last transition which pushed athletes’ endurance, Nico Freson traveled from Miami, Florida, he was part of a relay team.

“I did the swim and the bike, the last 10 kilometers were really hard,” said Freson.

Duke Club Tri Team Coach Vickie Yeingst helped train six in attendance.

“Some of them it’s their first and some they’ve done it before,” said Yeingst. “I just want to make an impact in these students’ lives, just helping them and be successful, have good character, be a good person, be kind.”

Jane Gray and Rashaad Ratliff-Brown couldn’t swim a year ago, that didn’t deter them from training and competing in triathlons.

“I was super nervous getting into the water, I knew once I found a rhythm I would be completely fine,” said Ratliff-Brown. “Having my teammates next to me helped me out.”

The half marathon took athletes around Greenfield Lake to Riverfront Park, at the finish line.

The top male and female winners of this year’s race are from Cleveland, Ohio, and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

“I think I’ve done a dozen Ironmans, it’s my first time in North Carolina and a great experience, the crowd support, the spectators here, the volunteers were awesome,” said Derek Stone. “There was some adversity on the bike course it was pretty foggy today but that’s what this race is all about, different elements that are going to test people.”

” I just didn’t expect it at all, and I saw the second-place girl, we started cheering each other on, and it was a great experience,” said Hannah Nelson. “I’ve only been doing it for a year but it’s just the community behind it, everybody is so supportive, even the volunteers, the athletes and it’s like a family out here and I love it.”

An experience most at this year’s event will never forget.

“If you’re out there and you want to get inspired come down some year, maybe not this year, but next year to watch the race,” said Hayden. “You can do it, and if you need help we’ll train you.”

According to organizers, 950 athletes from North Carolina competed, with more than one hundred forty of those athletes from the Cape Fear.

More information on the Cape Fear Tri Club can be found here, and information on race results and more Ironman competitions can be found here.

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