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Recent triathlon deaths highlight danger of swimming portion

Posted at 10:28 PM, Jun 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-12 14:58:59-04

Three people have died during the swimming portion of recent Wisconsin triathlons,and experts say the water portion is the most dangerous.

Two men died during last weekend's Ironman 70.3 in Madison, and one more died earlier this month in the Lake Mills Triathlon.

Dwight Sandvold of Fitness and Sports Training (FAST) in Nashotah has participated in or trained athletes for triathlons for the last three decades.

“The swim is the thing that really takes the longest to master. … It's technically the most difficult of all the events. If you’re really inefficient in the water, 50 yards in a pool even can be exhausting,” Sandvold said.

Dr. David Ross, M.D. of Ascension Wisconsin, who is a sports medicine specialist, says all parts of a triathlon are challenging to your body, but he agrees the swimming portion is the most dangerous. Quite simply because it can be hard to rescue a swimmer in trouble. “A cardiac event is typically what occurs, and patients can be healthy and at the top of their sport and can wind up having one of these events occur still,” Ross said.

Ross recommends any athlete thinking of taking part in one of these high-endurance type of events consult with their doctor. “Speak with your doctor, talk with them if you have a cardiac history in your family. If there’s been anyone in your family that has died of uncertain causes,” he said.

The exact causes of death for the athletes have not been released. The men in the three incidents ranged from 38 to 61 years old.