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Ironman athletes build bikes for kids

October 7, 2016 - 12:05am

KAILUA-KONA — As athletes from around the world have descended on Kona for Saturday’s Ironman World Championship, several are taking advantage of the opportunity to give back to their hosts.

Thursday morning, a team from BioAstin helped assemble several bicycles as part of an effort to give 135 kindergartners at Kealakehe Elementary School new bicycles.

“I think it’s great,” said Alika Hoomana, a brand ambassador for BioAstin who participated in this year’s “Bike for a Kid” bike build.

Twins Jon and Chris Thornham started the event when they started their carbon fiber wheel company Flo Cycling in 2012. Chris Thornham said 1 percent of their revenue is donated to the program.

“It’s just really cool whenever you can come together to do something for a greater cause,” he said.

The bikes being given away this weekend will mark 397 bikes the program has given away in Kona and 1,343 bikes given away worldwide.

He added that they believe that if athletes are going to come into town to compete, they can also make an effort to make a positive impact while they’re around.

Last year, the Thornham brothers began partnering with More Than Sport, an organization started by Kona resident Chris Lieto that works to make sustainable, long-lasting impacts on communities that host athletic events around the world.

Lieto, a three-time Ironman winner, said the organization was crated to help address the needs of communities that host athletic events such as Ironman competitions.

“There’s always a need in every community that we race at,” he said.

Through More Than Sport, he said, they try to create opportunities for athletes to serve host communities all over the world with events like the bike build. Those events are also open to fans as well, he said, who travel near and far to watch these competitions.

“The bike build gives us the opportunity to engage fans and athletes that come visit,” he said.

Jon Thornham said they’ve done the bike build and giveaway at races all over, and no matter where they are, the response is the same.

“The response you get from kids, it’s kinda universal,” said Jon Thornham. “Kids getting bikes are just happy kids.”

Chris Thornham said that translates to everyone involved, including the athletes. He said that while athletes who come to take part in Ironman have all sorts of opportunities and events that run alongside the triathlon, the bike build is special.

“I’ve heard from several of them that this is their favorite thing to do,” he said.

He said between 40 and 50 athletes have already stopped by to build a bike. He added that now people are coming as whole groups from companies coming to help put a bike together.

Hoomana, a resident of Kona who competed in the 2012 Ironman said the bike build is a great thing for the community.

“For (athletes) to take the time out to do something like this, it’s super super great,” he said.

On Sunday, the day after the competition, athletes will present the bikes to children at Kona Commons. Kids will have a chance to meet the athletes one-on-one.

“We’re not doing it to try to gain a lot of limelight,” Lieto said. “We’re just really about serving.”

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