Philadelphia Triathlon officials enhance safety precautions

    The Philadelphia Triathlon is something everyone in the city needs to be prepared for this weekend. Participating or not, you’re likely going to be sitting in traffic.

    For those who are participating, officials have implemented even more safety measures after assessing last year’s drowning death of one of the racers.

    “Our athletes’ safety is our No. 1 priority,” Philadelphia Triathlon LLC CEO Richard Adler told NewsWorks. Calling the 2010 death of triathlon participant Derek Valentino a “tragedy,” Adler said event officials “took a close look” at what else they can do to keep athletes safe.

    Founded in 2005, the triathlon and its course remain the same: Saturday marks the Sprint Distance and kids events; Sunday brings professionals out to the Olympic Distance course.

    Valentino, a first-time triathlon participant last year, drowned during the swimming leg of the sprint race. Adler says triathlon officials have taken all precautions to prevent another accident and be at the ready should something unexpected happen.

    “We’ve got a great crew of life guards,” he said of the crew patrolling the Schuylkill. Another member has joined the team this year, bringing 25-plus years of Wildwood beach patrol experience with him. Athletes are tracked with waterproof electronic monitoring chips attached to their ankles with Velcro, as the triathlon’s Ed Donovan explained. 

    Continuing its relationship with the Philadelphia Police Department’s Marine Unit, an additional set of divers will be on hand this weekend should assistance be needed.

    “We think these are good steps,” Adler said, but he encourages athletes to acquaint themselves with open-water swimming. Triathlon officials work with registered participants to connect them with training.

    Whether it with be first-time racers or old pros, Adler said there is one main goal as far as the swimming leg of the course goes: “to make everybody feel more comfortable in the water.”

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