Sports | November 22, 2020 8:14 pm

Triathletes Face Tough Decision on Lucrative Race During Pandemic

Challenge Daytona is scheduled for next month

Challenge Triathlon Dubai
The Pro men begin the swim leg of the race during the Challenge Triathlon Dubai on 27 February, 2015 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images for Challenge Triathlon

Elite triathletes (and triathletes, period) have had a difficult time competing this year due to the pandemic. Ironman canceled many of their 2020 events; a New York Times article by Nick Busca described his experience competing in the first such event in 6 months, which was held in Estonia in September. “Just being able to show up at the start line was a major hurdle almost on a par with the 2.4-mile open-water swim, the 112-mile bike ride and the 26.2-mile run,” Busca wrote.

In a new article for The Washington Post, Busca describes a new twist on the already-complex world of triathlons in 2020. At the center of it is Challenge Daytona, a triathlon slated for December. The “Daytona” part is important: Florida’s restrictions on athletic events are relatively minor compared to the rest of the country.

One of the events comprising Challenge Daytona is the Professional Triathletes Organization 2020 Championship, where 100 invited athletes will split what is, as Busca notes, “one of the biggest prize purses the sport has ever seen”: $1.15 million.

Challenge Family is a competitor of Ironman; Challenge Daytona is one of two events they hold in the US. And the timing of this race is significant for elite athletes as well. Busca writes that “the PTO Championship is now the only 2020 world championship for triathlons longer than those at sprint and Olympic distances.”

All of this puts many athletes in a conflicted position: taking part in the race could be good for them professionally and financially, but it may can also increase their risk of contracting COVID-19. It’s a difficult decision for many, in the midst of a year that’s abounded with them.