Ironman spectators, fans and family cheer on racers Saturday
October 14, 2023, 9:24 PM HST
* Updated October 16, 12:35 PM
Tina and Van Haresnape jumped in the air Saturday as their 31-year-old daughter Billie made a turn on Ali’i Drive in Kona during her last leg of the 2023 VinFast Ironman World Championship.
Flying all the way from New Zealand, the husband and wife were sporting one-of-a-kind shirts with pictures of their daughter incorporated into the Hawaiian aloha shirt.
Watching their daughter accomplish her goal was worth the trip, they said.
“We are beyond proud of her,” they said while watching her during the all-female triathlon that included a 2.4 mile swim in Kailua bay, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run.
They are among the thousands of supporters who lined Ali’i Drive Saturday to chant, yell, cheer and support their loved ones who participated in the annual race.
“Everyone is having fun and enjoying it,” Van Haresnape said.
Mike Knack, a volunteer with the Ironman race, was walking in the hot Kona sun trying to find Hualālai Road so he could get prepared to see his 23-year-old daughter Emily compete. Knack said he flew from Ohio to welcome her across the finish line.
“It’s overwhelming,” he said. “I am so proud of her and her drive. I couldn’t just sit at home knowing she’d be out here so I thought I would volunteer to be a part of it all.”
And he’s not alone.
Kristin Jenny, a competitor from Colorado, was changing after the race with the support of her husband, Mike. She said having her husband there was critical.
“It means so much. I couldn’t imagine not having my husband here. He helps me stay calm and logical,” she said.
Jennifer Lowe, a racer from Oahu, was greeted by her children, Liam McTigue and Kaya McTigue, after finishing the race around 8:30 p.m. She said she raced in 2000 when they were just toddlers, and wanted to race again now that they are adults.
“I wanted them to come out and make them proud of me,” she said.
Rick and Marie McLaughlin flew from Boston to Kona for the first time in more than 40 years to support their 51-year-old daughter.
“It’s a long event, but worthwhile for someone who is invested in it,” Rick McLaughlin said.
“Everyone has been so supportive,” added Marie McLaughlin. “All the people yelling and following them, that they might not even know, calling out to people with big smiles. It’s been a great day. My favorite part was when I heard someone say: ‘This makes me proud to be a woman.'”
One of those women competitors was feeling proud Saturday night after finishing the race. It was almost 7 p.m. when Perla Janet from Mexico was walking around King Kamehameha Hotel trying to find her family that came to support her.
Janet said the most difficult part of the race was the bike course. She said while she was concentrating on the race, she couldn’t help but notice her family cheering her on from the sidelines and while it was distracting, she was thankful they were there.
“It was a really difficult race and it was nice to have them here, cheering me on, so not to feel alone,” she said.
Many racers will finish hours after Lucy Charles-Barclay, of Great Britain, finished to win the race with a record time of 8 hours, 24 minutes, 31 seconds.
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