Veteran New Zealand triathlete Cameron Brown has been forced out of the Hawaiian Ironman race on Sunday because of an allergic reaction to volcanic fumes.
It was heartbreak for the 40-year-old, a 10-time Ironman New Zealand winner, as he was unable to start the world championship race in Kona-Kailua after suffering from breathing difficulties.
"I've been suffering from the VOG (volcanic fumes) from the volcano here on the Big Island," Brown said. "A lot of people have sore throats and allergies and I'm one of them. My whole family is coughing and have scratchy throats and I was hoping it would come right very quickly."
However, Brown was unable to breathe freely on Sunday morning and was forced to withdraw.
Brown had decided to return to Hawaii after his outstanding second placing in the Asia Pacific Championships and spent eight weeks training at altitude in Boulder, Colorado.
He enjoyed four podium finishes in Hawaii from 2001 to 2005 but has been less successful in recent years.
Brown earlier hinted it could be his last shot at the Kona title, the elusive and most prestigious prize for distance multisport athletes.
"It is very hard here with the conditions and when you are racing the world's best. You only have to be that little bit off and you will get beaten, and well beaten at that."
There are 32 other Kiwis at Kona, with 30 of them contesting age group divisions.
The pro-elite women hopefuls are Aucklander Jo Lawn and Christchurch's Gina Crawford, who are both in strong form.
Lawn has enjoyed three finishes in the top five in Kona and comes off an impressive fifth place in the Ironman 70.3 world championships in Las Vegas.
Crawford has enjoyed two Iron distance races since returning to competition in January following the birth of her son.