GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
The crowd in Kaimuki cheered on a triathlete during the bicycle leg of the Honolulu Triathlon on Sunday.
The fire’s lit
With the success of the Olympic
triathlon trials on Sunday, Honolulu
could be catching on as a popular
venue for similar events
Ready for another tri?
The Honolulu Triathlon and USA Triathlon trials concluded about 48 hours ago, and some might not be ready to do it again. At least, not right away.
"There was no relief on that course," third-ranked Sheila Taormina said. "Just when you feel like you have gotten through the hard part, here comes another hill. It seems that whole course was up hills."
Most of the uphill battles for organizers were waged months ago, and Sunday's triathlon was the culmination of two years of work for John Korff and Bill Burke.
Korff owned the original vision of staging an Olympic triathlon in Hawaii. He was stair climbing at a Waikiki hotel and was struck by the beauty of the vista of Diamond Head as he reached the top.
The manifestation of that vision went beyond his expectations. A week of events, which included an elaborate torch-lighting ceremony that featured former Hawaii Olympians and surfer Bethany Hamilton, ended in a chicken-skin moment when Vili the Warrior's drums sounded off on Sunday.
"I was really stoked by the response of the community and the crowd and the energy level," Korff said. "It was awesome. It was magical.
"It unfolds in front of you. Once it starts, there's nothing you can do as organizers. You get a chance to watch people's reactions."
The reaction to Honolulu's first Olympic event was largely positive, from athletes to officials to attendees.
CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Bryce Quirk and Brad Kahlefeldt of Australia, and USA's Seth Wealing led this pack of triathletes during Sunday's event.
"I enjoyed the swim, it reminds me of being home in the surf," Australian Greg Bennett said. "It is a great course, a really tough course, and the Americans have done well to pick a course like that."
Added USA triathlete Joe Umphenour, who finished 15th on Sunday: "We've really enjoyed ourselves. We've had a great time. It really feels like home here and it will be hard to leave."
UH athletic director Herman Frazier, the U.S. chef de mission for the Olympic games, marveled at the venue and noted the compactness of the course made it seem like a stadium experience.
"Depending on where the future (Olympic) games are going to be held could have some impact. But even if it's not Olympic trials, I could see them coming back for additional events," Frazier said. "You can't beat that setting.
"To have all that in front of a captivated audience, I'm not sure any race in the country would have that many spectators for the entire duration of the race."
The successful staging of the triathlon could inspire other national sports governing bodies to come to Honolulu for events. Frazier has already had inquiries and said he could see other sports like wrestling and judo stage competitions in Hawaii. Frazier, a former gold medalist in track, is hoping an international track meet could be held at the University of Hawaii's new track. Other international events have already had outstanding results. Organizers of the Pacific Alliance Championships called last week's gymnastics competition the most prestigious international meet held in Hawaii.
Korff said that International Triathlon Union officials have already asked him to host a World Cup event here next year.
"We're about as pleased as you could be for a first-year event," he said. "We'd like to be standing here in 25 years at the starting platform, saying we were here at the beginning. ... If everything lines up right, this keeps us on the Olympic track for the future."
If next year's World Cup happens, it could lead to much more. Korff said the triathletes and USA triathlon would like to hold a regional training camp to follow a World Cup event in Hawaii. He also envisions Hawaii as a destination location for triathlons. To him, the possibilities are endless.
"We're excited," Korff said. "We're ready to start for next year."
It seems most are ready to tri again.
Note: The Outdoor Live Network will air the trials sometime in May. A date has not been set. OLN also broadcasts the Tour de France.