Ironman 70.3 Triathlon launched in Rwanda as country prepares to host race in Rubavu

Thursday January 20 2022
The launch of the Ironman 70.3 Triathlon, or the Half Triathlon, in Rwanda on January 20, 2022.

The launch of the Ironman 70.3 Triathlon, or the Half Triathlon, in Rwanda on January 20, 2022. The race will be hosted in Rubavu District, Rwanda, in August 2022. PHOTO | ANGE ILIZA | NMG

By Ange Iliza

The Ironman 70.3 Triathlon, launched on Thursday, has been added to Rwanda’s global sports events list to be hosted in 2022.

Ironman 70.3 Triathlon, or the Half Triathlon, is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races considered among the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world.

The Ironman 70.3 Triathlon this year will be held in Rubavu, Rwanda, in August 2022.

The launch follows a meeting between President Paul Kagame and Serge Pereira, CEO of insurance firm Starstone, and Cindy Descalzi on Wednesday, who the Presidency said were in the country to launch the Ironman Triathlon.

Rwanda is the third destination in Africa to host the race after South Africa, Egypt, and Morocco, and the first in central and east Africa. The triathlon is expected to attract 1,500 - 2,000 athletes from across the world.

“This is more than just a triathlon. It is an opportunity for Rwanda’s visibility. It adds to our efforts to expand and recover from the pandemic in terms of revenues,” said Nelly Mukazayire, CEO of Rwanda Convention Bureau. She spoke during the launch on the shores of Lake Kivu in Rubavu.

Launch of Ironman 70.3 Triathlon, or the Half Triathlon, in Rwanda.

Officials at the launch of the Ironman 70.3 Triathlon, or the Half Triathlon, in Rwanda on January 20, 2022. The race will be hosted in Rubavu District, Rwanda, in August 2022. PHOTO | ANGE ILIZA | NMG

Spur tourism

Rwanda aims to raise $800 million from tourism by 2024. In 2018, two years before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the tourism sector contributed 14.9 percent to Rwanda’s GDP and earned the highest revenues in 2019; $498 million. The revenues later fell to $121 million in 2020 due to the pandemic.

The race will be sponsored by Rwanda Development Board through Visit Rwanda Campaign.

The event comes as Rwanda positions itself to become Africa’s sports tourism hub.

In July 2021, Rubavu also hosted FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour for both men and women after Rwanda hosted the Basketball Africa League in May.

The country has also won the bid to host the 2025 World Road Cycling Championships, the first time it will be held on the African continent.

One of the major partners in the race, Serge Pereira, Founder and CEO of Starstone Insurance, said Rwanda was chosen to host the triathlon due to its commitment to hosting global sports events and political will.

“There is no doubt the race will become a global event very soon. We will need the infrastructure to grow with it. That is a challenge to the Rwandan government,” he added.

The triathlon will start on August 14 and last for 10 days.

Gruelling competition

Organised by the World Triathlon Corporation, Ironman events have a limited time of 16 or 17 hours to complete the race, depending on the course.

The "70.3" in the Half Triathlon refers to the total distance in miles (113.0 km) covered in the race, consisting of a 1.2-mile (1.9 km) swim, a 56-mile (90 km) bike ride, and a 13.1-mile (21.1 km) run.

Each distance of the swim, bike, and run segments in the Half Triathlon is half the distance of that segment in an Ironman Triathlon.

The Ironman 70.3 series culminates each year in a World Championship competition, for which competitors qualify during the 70.3 series in the 12 months prior to the championship race.

Any participant who completes the triathlon within these time constraints is designated an Ironman.