NYC Ironman competitor dies during triathlon

Competitors in the Aquadraat Sports Ironman U.S. Championship

Competitors in the Aquadraat Sports Ironman U.S. Championship cycle along the southbound side of the Palisades Parkway in New City. (Aug. 11, 2012) (Credit: John Meore)

Tarrytown's Jordan Rapp emerged victorious Saturday in an Ironman Championship that saw drama, disaster and even death.

Rapp, 32, edged out more than 30 competitors in Saturday's Ironman U.S. Championship in New York City. It's Rapp's fifth first-place finish in an Ironman competition, including previous wins in Texas, Arizona and Canada.

The event had its down notes, including the death of a competitor during the swim portion of the race.

A publicist for the race organizers said the unidentified 43-year-old male competitor "experienced distress" during the 2.4-mile swim in the Hudson River at the start of the all-day competition.

The swimmer was pulled out of the water and taken to a hospital in nearby Englewood Cliffs, N.J., but did not survive. The organizers said the cause of death is unknown. An autopsy is planned.

"On behalf of all of us in the triathlon community, we mourn his death and send our condolences to his family and loved ones," organizers said in a statement.

Along with his impressive resume, Rapp has managed to beat the odds -- he was seriously injured in 2010, when he was riding his bike and was struck by a car.

His victories this year -- including his Texas win in May -- mark Rapp's return to form before the accident, when he won Ironman competitions in Arizona and Canada in 2009.

The more than 2,500 contestants in the race followed their swim in the Hudson with a 112-mile bicycle ride which looped up the Palisades Parkway from Fort Lee, N.J., through Rockland County, and then a 26.2-mile marathon that was to end at Manhattan's Riverside Park.

Deaths in triathlon competitions have happened with regularity in recent years, and the Hudson River has been particularly dangerous.

Two people died during the swim portion of the Nautica New York City Triathlon last summer. A male competitor also died during the New York City Triathlon in 2008.

After a spate of five deaths around the country in two months last summer, a governing body for the sport, USA Triathlon, created a task force to examine the fatalities.

Jordan Rapp, a winner of multiple Ironman titles, won the race in an unofficial time of 8 hours, 11 minutes and 18 seconds.

The triathlon marked the first Ironman event to be held in New York City. The swimming portion had been in jeopardy after a 3.4 million-gallon raw sewage spill made the river unsafe; the swimming portion began on a barge off the river's western shore 15 miles downriver from the waste release point and finished at the foot of the George Washington Bridge.

The Westchester County Department of Health announced Friday afternoon that a health advisory warning people to stay out of the river would be lifted later in the day, at 11 p.m.

Race organizers followed suit, saying that water testing declared the affected parts of the Hudson River safe for the 2.4-mile swim portion of the competition. Sewage was redirected to the Hudson River Thursday morning in response to a broken pipeline.

With The Associated Press

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