At the Ironman European Championships in Hamburg, there was great horror when a support motorcycle collided with an oncoming athlete during the bike race. The motorcyclist died, the athlete was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. Nevertheless, the race continued.
dr Martin Engelhardt is President of the German Triathlon Union. He wasn’t at the race in Hamburg himself, but talked to the local organizers afterwards. Engelhardt says:
“I believe that many factors of an unfortunate nature have come together here and why the motorcyclist came exactly into the oncoming lane and then collided with the cyclist is ultimately still unclear.” Shortly after the accident, Engelhardt did not want to comment on exactly where the mistakes that could have led to the accident could have been: “I think you have to reconstruct it seriously before you jump to conclusions.”
“The decision was made by the team in Hamburg itself”
Engelhardt contradicts representations that the decision to continue the race was made by the association in the USA: “The decision was made by the team in Hamburg itself. Of course they were shocked by the accident and of course the death, but they thought about it in all directions , which is now the correct course of action. There were over 2,000 people on the course and of course they have overall responsibility, also with regard to the safety situation of the overall competition. If they had stopped the entire race now, it would have been relatively unpredictable, according to statements from the organizers who are primarily responsible. That’s why, despite all the dismay, including the people affected, the decision was made to continue the race – with all due respect for the tragic accident that happened.”
Engelhardt describes the organizers as experienced. They certainly would not have made the decision easy for themselves.
One could argue whether the race, which is also considered a World Cup qualification, was regular in terms of sport. After the scene of the accident was cordoned off, some of the participants carried their bikes over the adjacent dike in order to be able to continue. The athletes have little claim because it is a company-organized championship, explains Engelhardt, because the European Championship is an event in the Ironman series:
“These European Championships are ultimately not sanctioned by an association, but are carried out by a commercial company. The sporting value is still there, because top-class sport is practiced there, just like in other sports that are organized professionally.”
“Can happen in any competition”
Engelhardt defends the organizer: “It can happen in any competition. It can also happen with us. There are other competitions where there have also been fatalities, in triathlon.” We will now analyze and look for improvements. Ultimately, however, you cannot prevent every accident.