By offering a race that's half the distance, Ironman hopes to make its offerings twice as nice for competitors.
Ironman announced on March 4 it would offer a 70.3-mile (113-kilometre) race in addition to its full-distance behemoth, the Subaru Ironman Canada beginning this summer. Both races will run the same day, Sunday, July 24.
"It was something that we tried last year at our event at Lake Tahoe," Ironman regional director Keats McGonigal said. "We had really good feedback from athletes on how they appreciated multiple options to be able to race. There were a lot of athletes that said, 'I wanted to be up there and participate with my friends or family, my training partners, but based on my current fitness level, didn't feel I could take on the challenge of the full Ironman.'"
McGonigal said the organizers aren't entirely sure how many competitors to expect in the shorter-course division, but noted roughly 1,000 signed up in Lake Tahoe.
"We think it's going to be received really, really well, but until we get registration actually open, we don't know exactly," he said.
Since the swimming and running sections are made up of two laps for the full Ironman, a 70.3 course can be created by halving that number to one. The bike course, however, is a different story.
"They're going to turn right and start going up the Callaghan Valley (Road) just to the first aid station, so only about three (kilometres) from the highway, (then) they're going to turn around, not go all the way up to the top like the full athletes are," he said. "(After returning to Highway 99 and going through Whistler), just before Rutherford Creek is where the turnaround is for the 70.3 athletes."
The 70.3 athletes will leave later and most will finish earlier than the full-distance athletes. In Lake Tahoe, McGonigal said many stuck around and provided that much more atmosphere to the finish area.
"We anticipate Whistler Olympic Plaza and the finish line around Blackcomb Way to be a really vibrant crowd," he said.
Tough Mudder receives tourism honour
A major summer event can make headlines even in the spring.
The Tough Mudder obstacle-course festival was honoured at the Canadian Sport Tourism Awards, receiving Sport Event of the Year (Group B) accolades at the gala in Ottawa on March 7.
The event, which drew over 12,000 people to Whistler Olympic Park over two days last June, beat out finalists from Nanaimo (B.C. Athletics Track and Field Championships Jamboree 2015) and Leduc, Alta. (the World Sledge Hockey Challenge 2015).
Tough Mudder will be adding an option that is half the distance for 2016 in order to attract even more people to the area.
Tough Mudder Events Ltd. director of business development Nick Cogger was pleased with the honour.
"We are thrilled to be recognized by the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance with a PRESTIGE award," Cogger said in a release. "We've worked closely with our partners in Whistler to build the family of Tough Mudder events over the years, and we couldn't be happier to have been honoured by the industry for our achievements in sports tourism," he said.
Thompson places second; helps Canada wins Nations Cup
Ultimately, a tough start was a lot to overcome.
Ski-cross racer Marielle Thompson's hopes of earning a third FIS Crystal Globe were hampered by a couple missed podiums and a midseason injury that briefly sidelined her just before Christmas.
She fought valiantly to gain position on the ultimate winner, Anna Holmlund of Sweden, hitting the podium in five of her final six races, including winning three. However, after capping the season with a second-place finish in Arosa, Switzerland on March 4, Thompson's 737 points didn't measure up to Holmlund's 975.
Thompson did help secure Canada some hardware, though, as she and national men's leader Chris Del Bosco helped secure the Nations Cup, awarded to the country with the most points at season's end. Del Bosco placed third in Arosa for his fifth podium appearance of the season.
"The Nations Cup represents the collective efforts of our athletes and staff over the entire competitive season. It is a reflection of the planning, training, hard work and dedication of our athletes and entire staff. Stanley Hayer, head coach and leader of this team, needs to be recognized for his exceptional efforts this year along with his full-time travelling staff," Alpine Canada Alpin ski-cross athletic director Willy Raine said in a release.
WMSC skiers dominate at Grouse
Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC) found its racers stepping up constantly at the U16/U18 Teck Open Series Final at Grouse Mountain Resort from March 4 through 6.
The club's skiers hit seven podiums in the three slalom events and were led by Ella Renzoni, who won all three races.
On March 4, Renzoni bested runner-up Katrina Voss of Hemlock Ski Club by 0.70 seconds and though Voss closed the gap the next day, Renzoni still maintained 0.41 seconds of separation. There was less doubt on the final day, as she knocked off teammate Maja Woolley by a full 1.31 seconds.
Over the course of the weekend, Meg Swaffield, Sierra King, Gigi Kranjc and Julia Ross also found themselves in the top 10.
As for the men, Dawson Yates also found himself atop the podium, taking the second slalom event. He edged out teammate Myles Kowalczyk by 0.27 seconds in the process.
The day before, Yates had placed third, 2.08 seconds behind winner Christian Callaghan of the host club. WMSC's Nathan Romanin was second, 1.44 seconds back.
Yates also took a third place in the capper on March 6, though he was just 0.17 seconds off the pace set by Vernon's Gerrit Van Soest.
Konstantin Petkovic, Tom Sushams and Jack Forsyth all found themselves in the top 10 at some point during the weekend.
Freeskier wins silver
Three Whistler freeride skiers went east in search of some precious medals.
One found one, as Emilia Oziewicz of the Whistler Blackcomb Freestylerz put up two consistent runs to take second in the girls' 7-11 division with a two-run combined score of 57.57. Panorama's Alanna Meadus was first with a score of 60.23. Oziewicz's teammate Sophie Guy was just edged off the podium in fourth with a tally of 56.63, just seven-hundredths of a point out of third.
In the male 15-18 division, Tom Peiffer placed eighth with a score of 64.77 while Whitewater's Sam Kuch took the win with a score of 67.80.
Squash player Eberhard places second
Sage Eberhard is on pace to put Whistler on the map for yet another sport.
The rising squash star, 10, placed second at the B.C. Closed Championships in North Vancouver. She entered the final undefeated before ultimately falling to rival Kathryn Herring of Victoria.
She also impressed in the speedball competition, blasting a shot 127 km/h to win her age category.
This is Eberhard's first year of competitive squash and she has proved her mettle, also winning the women's D event at the Seattle Open and taking third at the Jericho Junior Open earlier this season.