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Coronavirus: Canadian athlete finishes 2nd in first-ever Ironman virtual reality race

Angela Naeth crosses the finish line, placing eighth during the 2018 Ironman World Championship Triathlon in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Oct. 13, 2018.
Angela Naeth crosses the finish line, placing eighth during the 2018 Ironman World Championship Triathlon in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, Oct. 13, 2018. EPA/BRUCE OMORI

With most sporting events cancelled due to the new coronavirus pandemic, Ironman may have found a solution.

The organization is offering virtual races, with athletes competing from their basements and home gyms.

Over 11,000 athletes signed up for the event, which includes a five-kilometre run followed by a 90-kilometre bike ride and a 21-kilometre run that must be completed over the course of the weekend. While the event was open to the public, only four professional athletes competed in the livestreamed portion of the women’s competition.

Canadians Angela Naeth and Jeanni Seymour were among the four athletes who competed in the inaugural Ironman VR Pro Challenge on April 4.

The four female competitors wore microphone headsets, and their race was livestreamed online for viewers to watch. A pair of announcers even provided commentary throughout the event.

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“It was very, very different than outside racing and it was definitely needed during this time so I had a blast,” Naeth said on CKNW’s Mornings with Simi.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — Calgary fitness studios stream free classes online

Naeth finished in second place with a time of 2:41:53, while Seymour finished in third with a time of 2:55:08. American Jocelyn McCauley came first with a time of 2:39:48.

Naeth said she was saddened by the cancellation of upcoming competitive events due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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“The triathlon community is amazing. I love it. And for us to not be able to connect with each other at the races or in training … is hard. You take that away and you take away part of what you really love in life,” she said.

However, the virtual reality race is making headlines for more than just its innovation.

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During the race, Australian athlete Mirinda Carfrae found herself in second place … until her husband walked into the room with an armful of her trophies to show viewers online. He accidentally tripped on the cord that was plugged into her bike.

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“So, Tim [O’Donnell] came in here with some of my trophies, and he was holding them up, when he said: ‘I’m going in the back so they can see.’ So, as he went around the back, he kicked my cord out,” she said on Instagram. “What an idiot!”

Despite being temporarily knocked offline and losing her position, Carfrae continued to ride and finished the race.