For an 18th consecutive year, NBC will showcase the ultimate showdown of raw athletic competition and human perseverance—the Ford Ironman World Championship—on Saturday, December 13, from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. ET.
The 90-minute special, a network television staple since the 1980s, has won a total of 14 Emmy Awards during the race's illustrious history. Emmy-Award winning narrator Al Trautwig will provide the voiceover for this year's broadcast.
The event celebrated its 30th anniversary on October 11, when more than 1,700 of the world's fittest athletes from all walks of life braved the harsh elements of Hawaii—including one of the highest record temperatures to date—while attempting to earn the title of "Ironman" in Kailua-Kona. Athletes ranging from 18 to 79 years of age competed in the world-famous 140.6-mile odyssey: a 2.4-mile Pacific Ocean swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile marathon in a classic battle against the sweltering heat—and themselves.
The broadcast features the intense back-and-forth competition among the world's top professionals, which showcases the winners: Australia's Craig Alexander and returning champion Chrissie Wellington from Great Britain. NBC also highlights the day-long exploits of several unique age-group athletes who defined the meaning of courage throughout the broadcast. Among those featured are:
Ricky James is a former amateur motocross racer who suffered an accident while racing in 2005 and is now a paraplegic. He completed the World Championship for the first time. Leading up to this year's race, James was trained by David Bailey, winner of the Hand Cycle division at the 2000 Ironman World Championship.
Jeff Conine had a successful 17-year Major League Baseball career as a first baseman and outfielder. He was a valuable member of both Florida Marlins World Series Championship teams, and has been an avid fan of Ironman for years, tuning in each year to the annual NBC broadcast.
"The NBC broadcast was the inspiration for me to get involved in Ironman. Seeing so many different athletes from all walks of life competing together is like no other event in the world," Conine said. "Having the opportunity this year to compete in the Ford Ironman World Championship and race alongside some of the best athletes in the sport, has been a dream come true."
David Goggins is a member of the NavySEALS as well as an endurance athlete who has completed several ultramarathons. He races to raise money in honor of 11 military personnel who were killed in Afghanistan in 2005—four of whom Goggins attended training school with. He vowed to raise funds for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, which pays the college tuition for children of special-operations personnel killed in the line of duty. He has raised nearly $300,000 for the Foundation.
Keith Davids is a decorated U.S. NavySEAL and commanding officer of SEAL Team ONE. He views the Ford Ironman World Championship not only as a feat of mental and physical strength, but also as an amazing event to promote SEAL recruiting. Commander Davids' personal decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Bronze Star with combat "V", the Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Commendation Medal with combat "V" and various other personal and campaign medals, including the Combat Action Ribbon, and the prestigious Presidential Unit Citation.
Sean Swarner, a 34-year-old two-time terminal cancer survivor and the first cancer survivor to summit Mt. Everest participated in his first Ford Ironman World Championship. When Sean watched the World Championship on the annual NBC broadcast from his hospital bed, he vowed to make it his next conquest. Since climbing Everest, Sean has climbed the highest mountain on each continent—also known as the seven summits—and has more climbing ambitions planned for 2009.
Harriet Anderson is the oldest female participant in this year's Ford Ironman World Championship. The 72-year-old veteran has been competing in the World Championship race since 1989 and is a returning Kona champion in the Women's 70-74 age group. She finished this year's race in 16 hours and 17 minutes—just 43 minutes shy of the official race cut-off.
The broadcast of the Ford Ironman World Championship has taken viewers on a step-by-step journey into several of the most inspirational, heart-warming human interest stories in race history, including:
Julie Moss' famous crawl across the Ali'i Drive finish line in 1982—an image that is still etched in the minds of millions today.
Dick Hoyt has proven a father's love for his son is immeasurable. Dick, a retired lieutenant colonel with the Air National Guard, swam, rode and ran with his son Rick, a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, the entire 140.6-miles to the finish line at the 1999 Ironman World Championship.
Sarah Reinertsen, a below-the-knee amputee, found redemption at the 2005 Ford Ironman World Championship. After failing to make the bike cut-off the previous year, the California native crossed the finish line in 15:05:12 to a thunderous ovation.
The 2007 Ford Ironman World Championship was taken by storm by a rookie who had made her Ironman debut just seven weeks prior. Chrissie Wellington from Great Britain claimed the women's title finished in 9:08:45, which was almost six minutes ahead of the second place finisher, Samantha McGlone.
For more information, visit Ironman.com.