ASTANA – Astana witnessed the fourth edition of Ironman Kazakhstan on July 2. Welcoming over 1,000 participants from 60 countries with Kazakh hospitality, sunshine and perfect weather, the event showcased the power of human determination in the face of challenging triathlon races.
In a remarkable display of strength and determination, over 3,000 people gathered early Sunday morning at the capital’s Triathlon Park to lend their unwavering support to participants embarking on a grueling triathlon race. The event hosted the BI Group Ironman Kazakhstan and the Freedom Ironman 70.3 Astana simultaneously in full and half-distance competitions.
The triathlon race involved a rigorous sequence of activities. Full-distance participants had to pass a 3.86-kilometer swim, followed by a 180.25-kilometer bicycle ride and concluded with a grueling marathon of 42.2 kilometers. This back-to-back format tested the endurance and determination of each athlete.
The Ironman 70.3 series race also presented competitors with a half-distance alternative, featuring a 1.9-kilometer swim, a 90-kilometer bicycle ride, and a 21.1-kilometer run.
The best results in the full distance were achieved by Maxim Knyazev (eight hours 36 minutes) and Kirill Tkachenko (nine hours 8 minutes), with Kazakhstan’s athlete Vladimir Kozhevnikov finishing third (nine hours 17 minutes).
Ironman Kazakhstan offers qualifying spots for the men’s and women’s age groups for Ironman World Championships in Nice, France, on Sept. 10, 2023 (men) and Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Oct. 14, 2023 (women). The top 30 on the Ironman 70.3 receive a ticket to the 2023 VinFast Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Lahti, Finland, on Aug. 26-27.
Ulpan Talap, 41, from Kazakhstan, was taking part in the half-distance competition. She has been in triathlon for three months, and motivation from her fellow team members and coach shaped her decision to embark on the race.
“Though my coach told me that it’s too early, he saw how determined I am, having taken part in the Temir Adam Cup [sports event held under the auspices of the Kazakhstan Triathlon Federation] and winning prize places there. He called one day asking whether I bought a ticket [for Ironman], I told him not yet, to which he replied, ‘buy your ticket and participate,’” she said in a comment for this story.
She attributes success to the support of the NomadTri team, where she’s been a member. “We have a great team, support and, most importantly, belief,” she said.
Kogershin Seiskhan came all the way from Zharkent in the Almaty Region to undertake an extraordinary test of endurance.
“Astana’s hosting of such competition is very convenient. The location is convenient, there is a triathlon park, a river to swim in, and highways around the city are suitable. The organization is at a very high level. It is a pride and joy for our nation to host such an event,” he told The Astana Times.
He particularly commended the support from families, colleagues and friends who were at the site from early morning to cheer for the athletes. “I think, in general, every Kazakh is a fan of Kazakh,” he added.
Once athletes began crossing the finish line, the atmosphere was quite electrifying. The sense of camaraderie and unity among the participants was palpable. For nearly an hour and onwards, athletes from diverse backgrounds shared their journeys, exchanging tips and encouragement, proving to be a melting pot of cultures.
Gordon Graham, working at Ironman Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa, expressed his enthusiasm for the event and highlighted the significant influx of sports tourists from various countries.
“A race like this does not happen in a few months. A race like this takes, virtually by the time last year’s race is finishing, they start planning for the new race. They are working with sponsors, you have to work with the local government to get permission to use the facilities, like roads, highways and river. It is a lot of work that gets done by our local team on the ground. We have a European team that comes a few months before to assist them,” he told The Astana Times.
The focus is on athletic experience. “We want them to be happy,” he added.
Kazakhstan does not differ much from other locations of the race around the world. Graham, however, stressed the “very good” commitment from the local government. He said conditions for the triathlon are “fantastic” in Kazakhstan.
“They really believe in the project. There is also some great investment from local business,” he said. “You have great people here in Kazakhstan. This is a country where everybody wants to do their best. We were saying earlier today that Kazakhstan is a place where nobody does 50%, everybody does 100% and that makes our job so much easier.”
The participation of athletes, and the status of the competition itself, contributes to the popularization in Kazakhstan not only of triathlon but also of a healthy lifestyle as a whole, according to Kazakh Minister of Culture and Sports Askhat Oralov. He highlighted the development of mass sport as one of the ministry’s key priorities.
“Ironman Kazakhstan has managed to become not only an important sporting event, but also one of the main tourist events in Astana. Last year, 5,000 people visited the competition. I hope this number will only grow,” he said.