August 16, 2018 6:43 pm
Updated: August 16, 2018 6:47 pm

Apple Triathlon in Kelowna this weekend may be cancelled, smoky skies cited as health risk

Organizers for this weekend’s Apple Triathlon in Kelowna, B.C., say the event could be cancelled due to poor air quality levels.

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With wildfire smoke blanketing the Okanagan and thicker smoke projected for Sunday, the organizers of this weekend’s Apple Triathlon say poor air quality may force a last-minute cancellation.

On Thursday afternoon, triathlon management said it will be monitoring air quality on an hourly basis in the lead-up to the races, which take place Aug. 18-19 in Kelowna, B.C., including the 2018 national triathlon championships.

READ MORE: Calgarians spend Wednesday under the worst air quality rating possible

“The health and safety of every athlete scheduled to hit the start line this weekend is our No. 1 priority, and that is at the core of every decision we make with regards to starting any race,” said Susie Ernsting, Apple Triathlon race director. “While all races are still scheduled to go ahead as planned, our team of professionals is monitoring the air quality index, which is regularly changing.

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“We are optimistic the conditions will be favourable before Saturday, but we will not put any athlete at risk if the conditions are deemed not to be safe.”

READ MORE: No immediate improvement seen for B.C., Alberta ‘worst air quality in North America’

The air quality health index (AQHI) in Kelowna on Thursday afternoon was rated at six, which is considered a moderate health risk, though it was rated at seven (high risk) earlier in the day.

On Monday, the AQHI was at 10-plus. This weekend, Global News meteorologist Peter Quinlan says a change in the jet stream could lead to smoke from massive wildfires burning in the Cariboo area being pushed down into the Okanagan.

If that happens, it’s possible the rating could reach 10-plus again, though it’s hard to forecast.

Triathlon organizers say a team of health-care professionals have counselled race officials to consider adjustments to the race schedule based on the following AQHI levels:

  • AQHI 9 – 10+: Event delayed or cancelled if conditions don’t improve.
  • AQHI 7-8: Event delayed or shortened.
  • AQHI 7 and below: No modification.

“Triathlon Canada takes great pride in ensuring the health and safety of all of our athletes,” said Triathlon Canada CEO Kim Van Bruggen. “While national championships are a major event on our domestic race calendar, we do not take this unfortunate situation lightly and will not risk the long-term health of any Canadian athlete regardless of age or ability. We applaud local organizers and volunteers for navigating through this unprecedented situation with us and appreciate the support of the ITU in this decision.”

Athletes, coaches and spectators are encouraged to check email and Apple Triathlon’s social media platforms for daily updates on the situation.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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