Nanette Nanjo-Jones and Margaret Pometta were probably two of the closest training partners ever after they first got to know about triathlon in 2008. They would usually train together on the hilly roads in San Mateo County, California. On race days itself, they would also decorate their bicycles with colored flags and wear matching pink boas. At the start of every event without fail, they would take a picture together too.

This photo was from the 2012 Vineman Half Ironman in Guerneville, Calif. It was also the last photo both of them had together. Just minutes after it was being taken, Margaret, a 50-year-old mother of three, suffered from a heart attack during her swim in the Russian River. She was eventually pronounced dead after a short time later. Nanette had no idea of what happened to her and only discovered when the race, which consisted of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run, was over. “I was shocked, it was so hard to process. I had this guilt. Maybe it was me who made her do these races,” she stated.

It’s been a year since the incident and Nanette no longer blames herself for it. However, she still continues to ponder over an experienced triathlete like Margaret, who never showed any signs of heart problems, managed to collapse and die while doing the activity she loved. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of fatalities at triathlons, most of which involved freak heart attacks during the swimming portion of the race. According to a recent study conducted by the USA Triathlon, out of the 12 deaths that were recorded during the U.S. triathlons in 2011, nine of the victims died from heart attacks during the swim. Also, 31 out of the 45 triathlon deaths between 2003 and 2011 were due to cardiac failure during the swim.

As the sport continues to grow in numbers, race officials are vigilant and paying close attention to water safety issues. Just last week, the World Triathlon Corporation, owners of the Ironman races, announced that changes will be made to gear towards increasing the safety, specifically during the swim portions of the races. If you would like to know more of the story, you can check it out here.

Happy Fish Swim School would like to remind all that such tragic incidents can occur to anyone, regardless of how fit he or she may be. Hence, we highly recommend one to go for a full body check up and receive clearance from the doctor before participating in these events. Yes, it may be costly and a hassle, but at the end of the day, all of us only have one life to live. Prevention is better than cure. For swimming lessons in Singapore, refer to our website.