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How to watch 2018 Kona Ironman World Championship

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“Whoever crawls across the finish line first, we’ll call him the Iron Man.” — Navy commander John Collins, before the first Hawaii Ironman in 1978.

The Ironman triathlon began as a 15-athlete event on Waikiki Beach to settle a debate. On Saturday, approximately 2,500 entrants take part in the 140.6-mile crucible with live coverage on NBC Sports. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

It begins with a 90-minute show on NBCSN at 12:30 p.m. ET, just as the elite men’s race starts with the 2.4-mile swim at 6:35 a.m. local time. The women follow five minutes later. The Ironman Facebook page will have live streaming coverage.

LIVE STREAM: IRONMAN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

Live reports on NBCSN and NBC air throughout Saturday, beginning at 2 p.m. ET. NBCSN airs a recap Sunday at 12 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.

Live Update Schedule on NBCSN (ET)
3 p.m.
4 p.m.
6:15 p.m.
8:30 p.m. (RACE FINISH)

This event was the idea of Hawaiians John Collins and wife Judy. He had read in Sports Illustrated that five-time Tour de France champion Eddy Merckx of Belgium was the world’s best athlete, which sparked conversation.

“It was an argument as to who was in better shape, runners or swimmers. I proposed that, possibly, cyclists were in better shape,” Collins said on the 1998 Ironman broadcast on NBC.

On Feb. 18, 1978, Collins and 14 others dove into the Pacific Ocean to settle it. Each competitor received three sheets of paper beforehand listing rules, a course description and, on the last page, one last motivator.

“Swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles! Brag for the rest of your life!”

Collins has regrets from that day. That half a beer on the 26.2-mile run. That bowl of chili on the 112-mile bike.

Gordon Haller, a taxi driver, would win in 11 hours, 46 minutes, 58 seconds (Saturday’s champion will cover the course in a little over eight hours). The trophy, made by Collins, was an iron man.

This year’s race is headlined by defending champions Daniela Ryf of Switzerland and Patrick Lange of Germany, who own the course records.

Ryf, a 31-year-old who converted to the Ironman distance after placing 40th in the 2012 Olympic triathlon, is going for a fourth straight Kona crown to match Paula Newby-Fraser‘s female record. On July 8, Ryf won the Ironman European Championship by 26 minutes with a time that would have placed seventh in the men’s division.

Two-time U.S. Olympian Sarah True was the distant runner-up to Ryf at Europeans and is making her Kona debut after retiring from the Olympic distance. More on True’s transition here.

Australian Mirinda Carfrae owns three Kona titles and has made the podium in seven of her eight Kona starts.

Lange’s chances to repeat were boosted when countryman and 2008 Olympic champion Jan Frodeno withdrew with a hip fracture last month. Frodeno won Kona in 2015 and 2016, plus took this summer’s Ironman European title by nearly eight minutes against a field that included Lange.

Lange, 32, broke the Kona course record last year — 8:01:40 — with a 2:39:59 marathon, just off his run course record of 2:39:45 from the previous year. He ran the final mile in 5:37.

Runner-up Lionel Sanders of Canada, back for this year’s race, emerged from a drug addiction to become one of the world’s best athletes with most of his training done in a 10-foot-by-10-foot room dubbed “the pain cave.”

Then there’s Spaniard Javier Gomez, the 2012 Olympic silver medalist and five-time Olympic-distance world champion making his Kona debut. Gomez owns a pair of half Ironman world titles from 2014 and 2017.

Notable non-elite entrants include 2012 Olympic road race champion Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan and 1990s Tour de France veteran Laurent Jalabert of France. Vinokourov served a blood-doping ban a decade ago. In 2013, a French Senate report listed Jalabert as one of many cyclists to use illegal drugs in that era.

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Swim meet canceled after FINA’s threat to ban athletes

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GENEVA (AP) — Amid growing conflict between swimmers and their world governing body, an international swimming meet was canceled on Thursday after threats to ban athletes who took part seeking better prize money.

The Italian swim federation called off the Dec. 20-21 competition it was organizing in Turin, saying it acted to protect athletes from FINA.

The Turin meet was linked to a proposed International Swimming League, a privately run operation which aims to operate outside FINA’s control and pay higher prize money.

“FINA declared the event ‘non-approved,’ threatening sanctions against the participating athletes,” Italian officials said in a statement.

FINA, based in Lausanne, Switzerland, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some Olympic champions have long criticized FINA, believing swimmers should be better rewarded, have more say in decisions, and could create their own union.

Olympic champion Adam Peaty of Britain wrote on Thursday on Twitter he was “incredibly disappointed” by the cancellation.

The politics involved will “galvanize swimmers, not break them,” wrote Peaty, who holds 50m and 100m breaststroke world records.

Peaty has previously supported Hungarian star Katinka Hosszu in her public criticism of FINA, and calls to create a swimmers’ union.

Italian organizers said Peaty, Hosszu and other Olympic champions including Chad le Clos of South Africa and Sarah Sjostrom of Sweden were due to take part in their 25-meter pool event. It was scheduled days after the short-course world championships being staged in Hangzhou, China.

The clash of events seemed to provoke FINA into finding more prize money for its worlds event in the smaller pool.

On Nov. 6, FINA added to its promised prize fund for China by almost doubling the total to $2.07 million.

FINA wrote to member federations on Oct. 30 warning of bans of up to two years for taking part in Turin.

However, a European Commission decision last year suggests swimmers could successfully challenge any attempt to limit their right to race and earn money.

The European Union’s executive arm ruled the International Staking Union in breach of anti-trust laws by threatening severe bans for speed skaters who wanted to compete in a South Korean-organized event in Dubai.

The ISU’s threats “also serve to protect its own commercial interests,” the European officials said.

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Simon Ammann believes ski jumping career end is near

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Simon Ammann, the most decorated active ski jumper with four Olympic gold medals, said it is hard to imagine competing beyond this season, according to Swiss newspaper Blick.

Ammann, 37, swept the individual Olympic titles in 2002 and 2010 to join retired Finn Matti Nykänen as the only four-time Olympic ski jumping champs.

In PyeongChang, his sixth Olympics, Ammann placed 11th and 13th, one month after making his first World Cup podium in nearly three years. He decided after those Winter Games that he would continue at least one more season, but has no plan to go all the way to a seventh Olympics in 2022, according to Blick.

Ammann has teased retirement since at least 2011 and even said going into the 2014 Sochi Olympics that he was “99 percent sure” they would be his final Games.

The now-father of two first gained crossover celebrity with his surprise Salt Lake City 2002 gold medals, his first wins in top-level international competition. The bespectacled Ammann’s victory screams and resemblance to Harry Potter helped land him on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and one of Europe’s biggest shows, sitting next to Shakira.

Fellow ski jumper Noriaki Kasai of Japan holds the Winter Olympic record of eight appearances. Kasai, 46, has said he plans to go for a ninth participation at Beijing 2022.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

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