Hometown hero gives Penticton storybook ending with Ironman victory
It was a storybook ending to what was an amazing weekend for Penticton.
Hometown hero Jeff Symonds finished first in Ironman Penticton, well ahead of all competitors on Sunday.
Symonds crossed the finish line at 3:09 p.m. and completed the 226-kilometer triathlon in 8:38:02 a.m.
His parents and wife were at the finish line with thousands of fans and volunteers to cheer him on and salute the professional triathlete.
His wife presented him with the Ironman Medal to crown the big win.
At the finish line, Symonds said being first overall in the town where he grew up is a dream come true.
“That’s where my heart is – there are so many people here who have helped me through my journey and helped me through the tough times. I wanted them to be a part of it,” said said Symonds at the finish line, “Let’s hear it for Penticton.”
He remarked to the crowd that it was his 4th grade teacher, Greg Reimer, who inspired him to want to try Ironman.
“He raced and I thought he was the coolest guy for it and I wanted to do that,” he said.
In fact, it was the impact of his Grade 4 teacher in Penticton that prompted him to return to school to become a teacher himself.
“Making an impact in your community is more important than making money for the race,” he said.
Although he is happy to teach any subject, his dream is to be a physical education teacher. He hopes to use the summers to compete in triathlons, he said.
Symonds swam well and then tore up the bike course, putting him far ahead of any racer. He said he was cycling too much, which made the race a little more difficult.
Pen High alumni were way ahead of everyone when transitioning from cycling to running.
“My local knowledge of the bike part helped me,” he said. “But because I pushed him on the bike, it made the race the most difficult.”
“The beauty of our sport is that it’s you against the course. Your competitors get the best of you,” he said.
“When you do an Ironman, you have to go all out,” he said.
The 2022 Ironman Canada Penticton did not have a professional series.
“Even though there is no professional racing this year, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to finally get ugly here. Without 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 the locals compete is what inspired me to get into this crazy sport,” Symonds said on her Instagram account.
“It’s important to me to be a role model and to give the young people of this city the same inspiration that I had growing up.”
Symonds told Triathlon Canada magazine he wanted to see his name on an Ironman plaque at Rotary Park along with the other past Ironman legends. Looks like he’s going to get his wish.
There were 2,000 competitors from around the world registered for Ironman Penticton. There was Ironman-mania in Penticton as thousands turned out to each event for the weekend-long celebration.
“I can’t wait to challenge a pro peloton next year,” he said of Ironman’s return to Penticton in 2023.
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