By now most Colorado triathletes have heard the story of how local athlete Matt Smith was DQ’d from Ironman Chattanooga and missed out on a Kona slot. Today, after perusing social media threads that indicated there was more to the story, 303 caught up with Matt to learn the full story about how a simple chapstick hand-off would lead to a full disqualification. As it turns out, there is more to the story.
From The Denver Channel:
DENVER – Imagine qualifying for the Super Bowl of your favorite activity and then finding out you can’t go because of…ChapStick.
Denver-area triathlete Matt Smith thought he qualified for the Super Bowl of IRONMAN competition this past weekend at IRONMAN Chattanooga in Tennessee.
“Finished second for the 40-44 age group, by just a couple minutes. In the Top 10 Amateur men,” said Smith. “In my age group there were two spots that qualified for the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.”
But a quick look at the race results shows that Smith did not finish second in his age group after the 2.4-mile swim, 114-mile bike ride (normally 112 for IRONMAN) and 26.2 mile run.
“In our sport, this is the Holy Grail, to go to Kona,” said Smith. “The head referee came up about 10 minutes after I crossed, once I got my wits about me, and let me know that I was disqualified and my results would be stricken from the record for outside assistance during the race.”
While the Denver Channel video interview and story headline focused on the Chapstick (sure makes for a great story), as it turns out that hand off only earned Smith a yellow card and a time penalty. When he crossed the finish line and was told he was disqualified, the reason given was, “there were reports on course of you getting more assistance during the race from outside persons.”
Matt says, “I always believe in being transparent. My wife Molly was on her bike on the run course. She would ride ahead, just past the next aid station and stop and be there to cheer and support and give me splits. The race is a self seeded course, so you don’t know where competitors are and what your place is. This is not against the rules.” He goes on, “Molly is seasoned IM spectator, she knows the rules. She took it harder than I did. But it may have seemed to others like she was offering support that is not allowed.”
Matt shared this detail with the Denver Channel for their report, but it was not included.
However, it does not change the reason he shared his story to begin with. “I still stand firm in my hope that sharing the story will set an example. What is important is who you are and how you handle a situation like this, not your results. I’ve seen too many athletes get in the ref’s face – I’ve always said I’ll never argue a penalty.”
Matt chose not to contest or appeal the decision, though many – including one Ironman representative, suggested that he should. “I had that option, but I felt if they’ve made that decision I need to let it stand. I know the refs have a hard time, and they’ve agonized over that decision.”
He concludes, “Our sport gets so consumed with results and aero data… were a bunch of type A geeks, and I really feel like we miss that sometimes in terms of this being a hobby, not something that should define us.”