Canadian age grouper Kristen Johnson was disqualified at IRONMAN 70.3 Syracuse after a spectator-turned-witness said he noticed and documented Ms. Johnson tampering with his wife's bike. He then alerted event staff.
According to Christian Mongrain, Johnson, who competed in the F40-44 age group and had bib number 1405, deflated the rear tire of the bike belonging to his wife, Sharon Schmidt-Mongrain. Mr. Mongrain said the incident happened after his wife (bib number 1408, from Ambler, PA) left the transition area to head to the swim. Both Johnson and Schmidt-Mongrain were among the favorites in the F40-44 age group. Schmidt-Mongrain had previously raced professionally, but recently returned to racing as an age-group athlete.
According to Mongrain, he remained in the car with their 5 year old son to feed him breakfast while Schmidt-Mongrain got ready for her race. When Mongrain returned to a largely empty transition area he did not see his wife, but he did see her bike and took pictures of it.
"My 5 year old son and I had just walked down to transition, he wanted to see his mom before her race. We didn't know if at that point she was out for her traditional pre-race warm up run, or in line for a port-a-potty. Since we knew where she was racked, there was a chance she would come back before heading to the swim start," said Mongrain. "I pulled out my camera to snap a couple of pics of the new bike I just assembled for her. As I was talking with my son, I heard the loud "pssssssss" of air being released from a tire, and saw Kristen Johnson #1405 bent over behind my wife's bike. I started yelling for an official at this point and raised my camera to capture the sabotage."
"I'm yelling at the top of my lungs 'Cheater, I need an official, she's deflating my wife's tires!'" Mongrain said to Slowtwitch as he recalled the incident. "Thank God I saw this," he said. "When the official came over, she [Kristen Johnson] said, 'I thought this was my friend's bike and I was letting air out for her.' She said, 'I'll fill it back up,'" according to Mongrain, "and hooked up a pump and started pumping. I was yelling, 'Stop her, get her away from my wife's bike.'"
The image below was taken by Mongrain. He said he took it in the transition area before the bike leg. The red arrow (arrows added by Slowtwitch) points to the Specialized bike #1405 (Kristen Johnson) and the green arrow to the Felt bike #1408 (Sharon Schmidt-Mongrain).
Johnson was allowed to race but shortly after the race finish officials decided to disqualify her.
After a discussion on the subject commenced on its reader forum Slowtwitch reached out to Sportstats, the official timer of all Ironman and Ironman 70.3 races in North America, which confirmed that the basic framework of the narrative did happen.
Kristen Johnson is listed in the results as a DQ, and Ironman's head of officiating Jim Riccitello confirmed to Slowtwitch that she was disqualified and that the DQ was for disturbing or handling a bike in transition that was not her own.
Riccitello did acknowledge that he spoke to Ms. Johnson, but the contents of that conversation were not shared with Slowtwitch either by Riccitello or by Ms. Johnson. Slowtwitch reached out to Ms. Johnson several times with questions about that race morning, but Johnson only stated, "This is not true."
Slowtwitch asked Schmidt-Mongrain if she knew Johnson and if they had a previous encounter or conversation. "No, I've never spoken to the other competitor even on Sunday," she replied. "I don't recognize her name—not that I remember everyone—as someone I've even ever raced against."
Both images © Christian Mongrain
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