Ironman’s fear for Ironman: this is why Ironman was silent for hours about fatal accident Ironman Hamburg

Ironman Hamburg (Picture: Facebook Ironman Germany)

Like a big, black blanket, the fatal accident that occurred yesterday at the European Championships Ironman in Hamburg – in which a 70-year-old motard from the organization died at the scene, an athlete was seriously but not life-threateningly injured and a cameraman slightly injured – hangs over this past weekend. Pro athletes are reacting with shock and fans from around the world are furious at Ironman about the fact that the company hushed up the incident on its livestream and continued to talk about ‘a wonderful day’, even hours after the accident. As it turns out, Ironman is afraid of Ironman itself and the headquarters won’t let anything happen without its permission.

Media worldwide picked up coverage of the incident today. Especially the German Bild did so big and fiercely. One of the leading media outlets in Germany learned – so it writes in an article on which no fewer than seven journalists worked – that Ironman did not respond to the accident for hours because Ironman Germany boss Oliver Schiek was not authorized to issue an official statement. The headquarters in Tampa (Florida, USA) had to be contacted before a publication was allowed. But, in Tampa it was still the middle of the night and so the phone from Hamburg was not answered.

People stated Ironman CEO Messick present in Hamburg, but still no statement

Striking detail: based on multiple people Ironman CEO Andrew Messick himself was visiting the race in Hamburg, so he was just present in Germany. Apparently he did not want, dare or was not allowed to make a decision either. Eventually, only hours after the accident – and when winner Denis Chevrot had already crossed the finish line in celebration, including by a smiling Messick himself, also based on multiple sources – there followed a statement from Ironman talking about the accident. Ironman indicated at that point that ‘our thoughts and concerns are with the family, whom we will support as much as possible during this difficult time’.

Note: Despite the fact that many people claimed to have seen Messick in Hamburg, Messick announced a few days after the event that he had not been in Hamburg. He indicated that he had been in America.

Felix Walchshöfer: ‘This is an absolute disgrace’

Meanwhile, in the livestream, none other than Greg Welch continued to speak of a wonderful and amazing day for Ironman. It met him with enormous criticism, not only from thousands of triathlon enthusiasts from around the world, but also from Challenge Roth Race Director Felix Walchshöfer. “What are you talking about in your live commentary? There is a dead motorcycle driver at Ironman Hamburg and a severly injured athlete and you pretend everything is normal and ‘a beautiful day in Hamburg’? Show some decency and respect man, this is an absolute disgrace.”

German television stations – which broadcast the race – turned off the livestream after the accident, but Ironman did not.

Where does the fear for Ironman come from?

Where the fear for Ironman comes from may be hard to pinpoint. One thing is certain: local race organizations are not allowed to do anything without permission/approval from parent company Ironman. We saw it recently with the Dutch company Extra Leisure, owned by Rob Frambach. When the Dutchman saw his licenses for Ironman 70.3 Maastricht and Ironman 70.3 Westfriesland revoked, he wasn’t allowed to communicate anything from Ironman either. It made for an embarrassing situation where athletes were kept in the dark and Frambach kept his jaws tightly shut – by necessity. Fear of legal action is keeping local Ironman organizations, as there are countless of this example and Hamburg is only the most recent and perhaps most painful example, in check.

Professional athletes in particular are now appealing to Ironman. ‘Make the sport safer’ and ‘don’t lose sight of the human’ are slogans that come up a lot. Let’s hope it does.