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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.

MORE: Gwen Jorgensen questions marathon after Chicago disappointment

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Brian Orser reveals Hanyu’s, Medvedeva’s, and Brown’s Grand Prix plans

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Over the past decade, the Toronto club where Brian Orser coached South Korea’s Yuna Kim to the 2010 Olympic title has become such an attraction for top figure skaters from around the globe that it could add a word to a name that already is a mouthful.

You could call it the Toronto International Cricket Skating and Curling Club.

But its reach now is limited by the deadly virus pandemic that has effectively frozen out the elite athletes from Japan, Russia, South Korea and Poland who train at the Cricket Club.

That situation won’t change quickly, even with the International Skating Union having announced Monday its plans to proceed with a live format for the international Grand Prix Series. This fall, it will become a series of six essentially domestic competitions scheduled to begin with Skate America Oct. 23-25 in Las Vegas.

If they take place.

“As soon as the skaters can come back, it will be full steam ahead… to where, we don’t know,” Orser said via telephone Wednesday.

Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu remains in Japan. Two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva is in Russia, four-time national champion Cha Jun-Hwan in South Korea, and two-time national champion Yekaterina Kurakova in Poland.

“We would like for them all to come back, but with the Canadian travel restrictions in place until at least Aug. 21, we can’t guarantee approval to get them in, and they would have a 14-day quarantine here if they do get in,” Tracy Wilson, who coaches with Orser, said via telephone Wednesday. “Right now, they are all training at home, and that’s OK.

“The situation is different for each one. The Japanese federation may need Yuzu to do the Grand Prix in Japan, and at this point he would face quarantine entering Canada and returning to Japan.

“For Yevgenia, as soon as she does the Russian test skates (scheduled for early September), we will re-evaluate her situation.”

Orser said he has been doing three video coaching sessions a week with Medvedeva, with whom he is in his third season as coach. Medvedeva, who left Russia for Canada after winning a silver medal at the 2018 Olympics, also is currently getting help from coach Elena Buyanova at the CSKA rink in Moscow.

“She (Medvedeva) looks way ahead of where she was at this point last year,” Orser said.

MORE: Looking back at Yuna Kim’s 10-year gold medal anniversary

Orser also has been having live remote sessions with Cha and Kurakova, and they are also sending videos to him. The only skater he has not seen is Hanyu.

“That’s normal when he is back in Japan,” Orser said. “I wasn’t expecting anything.”

How long Hanyu stays in Japan may depend on travel restrictions being loosened in both his homeland and Canada.

“I would like to get them all back, and they need to come back,” Orser said. “But facing a double quarantine is not in anyone’s best interest.”

Only two of the Cricket Club’s international skaters, 2014 Olympian Jason Brown of suburban Chicago and Yi Zhu of Los Angeles (who represents China), have come back to Toronto after leaving in late winter.

It took Brown two tries to get back across the border because of issues with the paperwork necessary for Canada to consider it essential he be allowed to enter. Orser and Wilson want to be sure any skaters coming from Asia and Europe are admitted on the first try.

From April to July, until skaters could get back on the ice in their various homelands, Brown led Thursday off-ice fitness classes via Zoom, with Medvedeva, Cha and Kurakova taking part.

“It was such a fun way to stay connected and still ‘train’ together while we were oceans apart,” Brown said in a Wednesday text message.

Orser and Wilson will recommend that all the foreign skaters training at the Cricket Club try to compete at Skate Canada, scheduled the last weekend of October at a 9,500-seat arena in Ottawa. Wilson thought if the event cannot have spectators, it might be moved to a smaller facility, possibly in a different city.

“All plans are in the early stages,” Skate Canada spokesperson Emma Bowie said in an email.

Grand Prix assignments have not yet been made.

Whether Brown picks Skate Canada over Skate America – if he gets a choice – could depend on when (and if) the Canadian government shortens quarantine periods for travelers from the United States.

“I know that we are in such unprecedented and uncertain times, so I love seeing the ISU being creative and trying to find a way to hold skating events this year,” Brown wrote. “While a lot can happen before October, if it’s safe to do so, I’ll be ready and eager to take part in any events that I can.”

The ISU said it wants to have the Grand Prix Final in Beijing, whether it takes place on its original dates (Dec. 10-13) or early in 2021. The competition is to be used as a test event of the skating venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

There are no details yet on qualification for the final, which usually is determined by points for placements at the six “regular season” events of the series, held in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan. The top six in each of the sport’s four disciplines make the Final.

In the past, the highest-ranked skaters could compete in up to two Grand Prix events, but ISU Vice-President Alexander Lakernik of Russia said in a Tuesday email that everyone would be limited to one event this year.

Because the Final presumably would have much more of an international field than the six other events, staging it is infinitely more problematic because of travel involved.

“We want what’s best for the sport,” Wilson said. “We have to get these kids out there doing programs, to get them on TV. [Note: An NBC spokesman said the network would, as planned, provide coverage of the Grand Prix, with details forthcoming.] In terms of competition, we’re up for anything.

“For me, though, with all the restrictions, there is no way they will be able to run a fair qualification for the Grand Prix Final. You’ve got to reinvent yourself and make it something else – if you are able to have it at all.”

Philip Hersh, who has covered figure skating at the last 11 Winter Olympics, is a special contributor to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.

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Steven Nyman, top U.S. downhiller, faces another obstacle

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Steven Nyman, the active U.S. leader in World Cup downhill wins, tore his right Achilles in a training crash and had surgery earlier this week in Mt. Hood, Ore.

“I am moving forward,” was posted on Nyman’s social media. “I’ve been through this before and have full intention to comeback [sic] and compete through the next Olympics.”

Nyman raced in three Olympics and owns three World Cup downhill victories.

He turns 40 during the next Winter Games in Beijing in 2022, when he will be three and a half years older than any previous U.S. Olympic Alpine skier.

Nyman missed the PyeongChang Olympics after a pair of major injuries: blowing out his left knee in a January 2017 downhill race crash and tearing his right ACL in downhill training in January 2018. He also tore his left Achilles in 2011.

He raced the last two seasons with a best World Cup finish of fifth in Val Gardena, Italy, site of all of his World Cup wins in 2006, 2012 and 2014.

The U.S. men’s program is in the midst of its longest World Cup downhill victory and podium droughts this millennium — none since Travis Ganong‘s win in Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Jan. 27, 2017.

MORE: Alpine skiing World Cup plans earlier season start with fewer fans

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