Henry Kannapell swims in the Tennessee River during the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon on Sunday, June 23, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Kannapell competed in the Olympic-distance event. The Olympic distance consists of a 1.5 kilomter swim, 4-kilometer bike ride and 10-kilometer run. / Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter

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Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon

The Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon became a national championship event this year as USA Triathlon brought its title race for Clydesdale and Athena participants to the Scenic City.

The categories are specifically for women 165 pounds or more (Athenas) and men 220 pounds or more (Clydesdales). The purpose is to demonstrate people of a variety of body types can and do participate in triathlons.

"It's an honor to host the championship here in Chattanooga," co-race director Jenni Berz said. "It just adds another layer of competition to this race."

Julie Emery of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, won the Female 55+ Athena sprint-distance championship.

Emery has been racing in triathlons for about 10 years. Like many triathletes, she credits the event with bettering her overall health and said she enjoys the race day atmosphere. She was the 2018 champion in her age group as well and came to the Chattanooga event to try to retain the title.

"It's a unique thing. Sometimes it's nice to get props and be able to be at the podium," she said. "I think it gives people the confidence to keep going."

The Clydesdale and Athena triathlon national championship will be held again at the Chattanooga Waterfront Triathlon next year.

The local triathlon is one of the biggest annual fundraisers for the Chattanooga Track Club. It began in the early-1980s as the Riverbend Triathlon and eventually took the place of the popular Chattanooga Dam Triathlon. It moved to the Ross's Landing area in the 2000s after the completion of the 21st Century Waterfront project. It is one of Chattanooga's longest running events.

"It's really community driven," Berz said. "It gives a lot of triathletes a hometown race put on by local folks."

About 1,300 people registered for the event, which is second in event history, making it the most attended in years. It took more than 200 volunteers to plan and execute the event that has both sprint and Olympic distance races. The sprint distance includes a 400-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike ride and 5-kilometer run. The Olympic distance consists of a 1.5 kilometer swim, 4-kilometer bike ride and 10-kilometer run.

Sprint distance participants jumped in the Tennessee River to start the race at 6:45 a.m. with the intermediate racers beginning at 7:30 a.m. The race transitioned at Ross's Landing before going down Riverside Drive and Amnicola Hwy. The run took place on the newest section of the Tennessee Riverwalk and ended back at Ross's Landing.

Chris Douglas, a doctoral student at Georgia Tech, won the overall Olympic distance race for the fourth time in five years. Douglas races with the California-based Every Man Jack team. He finished the race in 1:54:13, within 10 seconds of his time last year.

"The town really gets behind this race," Douglas said. "A lot of places you feel like you're a nuisance to the people in town, but here, everyone, especially the businesses I've encountered, are super welcoming. There's people out on the trails and a lot of volunteers."

Thiago Bianchini, from Woodstock, Georgia, was second for the second year in a row.

"The venue is awesome, especially for the spectators" Bianchini said. "Everything is so close together. It's fun to watch, and the community gets behind it. All of us from the Atlanta area love racing here."

Full race results are available at

Contact staff writer Mark Pace at or 423-757-6659. Follow him on Twitter @themarkpace and on Facebook at ChattanoogaOutdoorsTFP.