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The Ironman comes to India

Test of endurance: (From left) Deepak Raj, Geoff Meyer, Pete Jacobs, Jaimielle Jacobs, Satya Shankaran.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

On October 20, 2019, the world’s 127th Ironman 70.3 race, and India’s first, will be held in Goa, in a culmination of discussions for two-and-a-half years. Licensed by Yoska, a Bengaluru-based fit-tech start-up founded by Deepak Raj and Rudraprasad Nanjundappa, the race includes an open-water swim of 1.9 km, a bike ride of 90 km, and a run of 21.1km, totalling 113.1 km.

“It’s perfect timing,” says Singapore-based Geoff Meyer, Managing Director, IRONMAN Asia, on the decision to enter India. “There’s been an upswing in the health and lifestyle space. We had Ironman Malaysia last week. Three years ago, we had about six or eight athletes (from India). Last year, we crossed the 40 mark; this year was 79. So if you look at just that one event we’ve got a 100% improvement each year. And that’s happening across the Asian events.”

Unconventional path

Himself an athlete and an Ironman a few times over, he says it was important for the company to tie up with an Indian entity that put the athlete first. Yoska, co-founded by Brisbane-based Mr. Raj, 20-time Ironman, and Bengaluru-based Mr. Nanjundappa, seemed the right choice, though he was approached by many more, he says. Both had opted out of conventional careers at Infosys, and LinkedIn and Cognizant, respectively, to start the company.

Mr. Raj, who is the chief coach (certified by IRONMAN, Triathlon Australia, and the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers), customises and monitors individual training programmes for athletes. He has created a network of coaches across India, who can extend on-ground support and advice to local participants. Yoska has also developed a software platform for training-related data analysis.

The team expects about 1,000 participants, judging by the current numbers at some of the bigger triathlons in the country, which can go up to 800. With the launch just yesterday, there are no confirmations yet from the big names in the sport.

Women in the race

The brand ambassadors, Pete Jacobs, an Australian-born professional triathlete who won the IRONMAN World Championship in 2012; and Jaimielle Jacobs, a four-time IRONMAN 70.3 Age Group Champion, are expected to tour the country to introduce the race, along with tips on training, nutrition, and hydration. The latter will be involved in popularising the Women in Triathlon initiative that Mr. Raj and his team run, with special discounts on training and mentorship for women.

In terms of Goa as a choice of venue, “It ticked all the boxes: key operational, logistics, and hospitality aspects,” says Mr. Raj. While course design was an important consideration — the open-water swimming must be close to the cycle and run course — marketability was important. .

“The economic impact is significant,” says Mr. Meyer. “If you look at Malaysia, there were three triathlon clubs when we started five years ago; now there are 46. We’re building a health and fitness network.”

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2021 11:14:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/the-ironman-comes-to-india/article25607483.ece

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