It was a storybook ending to what has been an amazing weekend for Penticton.
Hometown hero Jeff Symonds was first finisher of Ironman Penticton, well ahead of any of his competitors on Sunday.
Symonds came through the finish line at 3:09 p.m. and completed the 226 kilometre triathlon in 8:38:02.
His parents and wife were at the finish line along with thousands of fans and volunteers to cheer him on and to high five the professional triathlete.
His wife put the Ironman medal on him to cap off the big win.
At the finish line, Symonds said being the overall first place finisher in the city he grew up in is a dream come true.
“This is where my heart is – there are so many people here that have helped me along in my journey, and helped me through the hard times. I wanted them to be a part of it,” Symonds said at the finish line. “Let’s hear it for Penticton.”
He remarked to the crowd that it was his Grade 4 teacher Greg Reimer who inspired him to want to try Ironman.
“He did the race and I thought he was coolest guy for it and I wanted to do that,” he said.
In fact, it was the impact his Penticton Grade 4 teacher had that has inspired him to go back to school to become a teacher himself.
“Making an impact in your community is more important than making race money,” he said.
While he will be happy teaching any subject, the dream is to be a PE teacher. He hopes to use the summers to compete in triathlons, he said.
Symonds had a good swim and then tore up the bike course, putting him way ahead of any racer. He said he over-biked making the run a bit more difficult.
The Pen High alumni was way out in front of everyone in the transition from bike to run.
“My local knowledge on the bike part helped,” he said. “But because I pushed it on the bike, it made the run the hardest.”
“The beauty of our sport is it’s you against the course. Your competitors pull the best out of you,” he said.
“When you do an Ironman you have to be all in,” he said.
The 2022 Ironman Canada Penticton didn’t have a pro series.
“Even though there is no professional race this year, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to finally get ugly here. With no prize money, it might not be the best financial decision, but I grew up watching this race since I was four years old and watching locals compete is what inspired me to get into this crazy sport,” said Symonds on his Instagram account.
“It is important for me to be a role model and give youngsters in this town the same inspiration that I had growing up.”
Symonds told Triathlon Canada magazine that he wants to see his name on an Ironman plaque in Rotary Park along with the other past Ironman legends. Looks like he is going to get his wish.
There were 2,000 competitors from around the world registered in Ironman Penticton. There was Ironman-mania in Penticton as thousands turned out to every event for the weekend-long celebration.
“I look forward to challenging a pro field next year,” he said of Ironman’s return to Penticton in 2023.
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