Coeur d’Alene IRONMAN pulls in remarkable athletes

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho — Over 2,000 athletes will be taking to the waters of Coeur d’Alene lake to embark on a 140.6-mile journey Sunday morning. This will be the first “full” IRONMAN since 2017.

Over the past few years, North Idaho has been hosting the half-IRONMAN. A group of local athletes worked to bring back the real-deal, and it worked.

IRONMAN includes a 2.4-miles swim, 112-mile bike-ride, and 26.2 mile run. The athletes are on deadlines for each leg of the race- and if they don’t complete within 17 hours, it’s a “DNF” (did-not-finish). When they signed up, they saw 75-degrees listed as the average air temperature in Coeur d’Alene at this time of year but by the time Sunday rolls around, were looking at highs in the triple-digits.

While spending the day at the IRONMAN village, 4 News Now had the opportunity to catch up with some of these more remarkable athletes. Each one of them has a story, but some more unusual than others.

Willie Stewart, 59-years-old, lost his arm in 1980, while working in a construction accident. He had always been an athlete, but when he lost his arm he felt like he’d never be able to do anything, again.

“We all need someone to believe in you. I said I couldn’t do IRONMAN, it’s too hard. He told me not to be a wimp, you can do anything,” he said. “He happened to be someone in a wheel chair that was quadriplegic. He used to do IRONMAN. He said, ‘Really? You’re going to use your little arm as your excuse?’ You can do anything. That’s all I needed.”

Today, he’s got many IRONMANS under his belt, including the Hawaii Championship.

Maria Koresmaros, was attacked by a shark just over five years ago, while training. The shark bit her like a “sandwich,” twice, and two blood transfusions later, she pulled through. She still suffers from that accident, and it hinders her breathing capacity, but she’s back at it. Sunday will mark her second IRONMAN.

Melodie Cronenberg, at 72-years-old, is competing in her 26th IRONMAN, as the oldest female athlete. She started in her first IRONMAN at 57-years-old after watching at another event. She was immediately inspired and never looked back. She says the experience is “life-changing.” Her first IRONMAN ever was in Coeur d’Alene, so this race will be a special one for her.

The oldest participant, 80-year-old Howard Glass is from Jupiter, Florida.

GOOD LUCK to those competing!

PAST COVERAGE: IRONMAN athletes begin final preparations for Sunday’s race 

PAST COVERAGE: IRONMAN Coeur d’Alene’s oldest competitor says the race saved him from depression