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Special Olympics Athletes Compete in the Second Challenge Family Triathlon Series

Three images: (Left) athlete swimming; (middle) man walking with his bike; (right) man finishing a run.
Special Olympics athletes competing in 2023 Challenge Family Triathlon.

The second annual Special Olympics European Triathlon Open Competition, as part of the Challenge Family Triathlon Series and hosted by Special Olympics Slovakia, took place this past weekend 18 – 22 May in Samorin, Slovakia. There were 30 Special Olympics triathletes from around the world competing in the three-part race made up of a 750-meter open-water swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run.

In the CAT C M heat, Ron Beck (Israel) finished first with a time of 1:11:46, followed by Andrea Spezzano (Italy) at 1:27:03 and Mattie Culasso (Italy) at 1:39:14. Justin Christian Kruger (Germany) and Christian Steiner (Germany) both completed the run and swim portions of the race.

In heat CAT D M, Jaakko Mikkonen (Finland) led Special Olympics athletes with a time of 1:24:58. Andrew Ahearn (Finland) was close behind at 1:26:19, followed by Jose Carlos Sajquium Qiunonez (Guatemala) at 1:27:10, Kennet Lefkovic (USA) at 1:28:09, Leo Rawstone (Finland) at 1:29:14, Maximilian Dietl (Germany) at 2:00:18, Florian Tauber (Germany) at 2:09:35 and Christopher Nikic (USA) at 2:12:28. Luis Oswaldo Rmirez Arevalo (Guatemala), Denis Knapcok (Slovakia), Esteban Gabriel Rodriguez (USA) and Wilbert Guzman Delgado (USA) each finished the swim and bike legs of the triathlon.

Man stands smiling at camera with hands in the air in front of him.
Special Olympics Slovakia individuals at the triathlon course.

In heat CAT E M, Wessel Everloo of the Netherlands led with a time of 1:20:50 and was trailed by Stephane Kelkal (Monaco) with a time of 1:31:20. Shortly after Kelkal was Martin Kiis (Estonia) at 1:32:10, Thomas Desperies (Monaco) at 1:34:46 and Salmi Leevi (Finland) at 1:54:05. Peter Ispold (Slovakia), Daniel Arturo Guerra Rubio (Guatemala) and Jose Daniel Rivera Ortiz (USA) ended after completing the swim and bike sections.

In the final heat of Special Olympic triathletes, CAT CDE F, Gaia Della Giusta (Monaco) lead the way to finish at 1:24:21. Right on his heels was Marlynne Bay Bacon-Stutzman (USA) coming in at 1:24:24. Esmee Anne De Meulmeester (Netherlands) crossed the finish at 1:29:24 with Juliette Patricia Soos (USA) coming in at 1:35:26 and Anni Aalto (Finland) at 1:40:03.

Though Chris Nikic has completed two IRONMAN races, this was his first time competing without a Unified partner to help guide him. He was pleased with his performance and excited to create some “amazing memories.”

The final list of Special Olympics delegations represented included: Estonia (1), Finland (4), Germany (4), Guatemala (3), Israel (1), Italy (3), Monaco (3), Netherlands (3), Puerto Rico (3), Slovakia (2) and USA (6).

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