The 2004 Ironman Triathlon World
Championship DVD offers up a program with a lot of appeal for
serious fans and casual viewers alike. To start with, it's a
well-made documentary that puts a human face on the competition, but
what makes it much more worthwhile is that the race itself is
exciting... and, most importantly, the race action is handled very
well and is given front-and-center space in the program, so that the
excitement of the race is maximized for the home viewer.
From the start, the program does a
nice job of introducing the main professional competitors in both the
men's and women's races, letting us know who to watch for, and
showing who's motivated to win for the first time, who's out to get a
repeat win, and who's trying to improve on an unfortunate performance
in the previous year. Many previous winners of the Hawaii Ironman are
in the field in 2004, some of them even training partners during the
rest of the year, so there's a definitely personal quality to the
competition at times.
One of the biggest challenges is
faced by the German triathletes, who
historically have excelled on the bike portion of the race, only to
lose ground (and lose the race) during the final marathon segment.
Many German racers had been in the lead after the bike race, but only
one German had ever finished first. The question on many minds in
2004, then, was whether the race could be won in the bike portion,
with history leaning heavily on the side of "no." This
aspect of the race gave both the men's and the women's events a
definite added boost of interest (especially for me, a fan of cycling
There's the usual assortment of
getting-to-know-the-riders segments, with many of them focused on the
pros while others touch on the people who are competing for more
personal reasons, whether it's a television celebrity or a mom
raising funds for disease research. These are handled well on the
whole, giving a human-interest angle without indulging in too much
sentimentality (something that afflicted the 1997 program). The
camera work and editing is occasionally overdone, with dramatic
close-ups held a bit too long, and a bit too much affinity shown for
flashy montages or little girls in Hawaiian costume, but overall it's
handled reasonably well.
What really shines is the coverage
of the race itself, which is excellent. The camera begins to follow
the race from the swim, getting right alongside the swimmers and
giving us a sense of who's setting the pace and who's having a harder
time. From there, the transitions and both the cycling and running
portions of the race are handled equally well. We're given a good
sense of who's ahead, who's behind, and by how much. Some of the
racers end up with penalties for drafting during the cycling part of
the race, and we get to see how that shakes up the standings at the
front of the race. At this point, we have a good sense of who's who
among the pros, so it's easy to be interested in the progress of the
various big names (and lesser known ones, coming up unexpectedly)
fighting for the front spots. Of course, it helps matters
considerably that both the men's and women's races are very exciting
in the 2004 edition, but the good editing and the attention to the
race itself (rather than just the supporting materials) certainly
helps boost the excitement level of this program.
The 2004 Ironman is presented in a
satisfactory non-anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors and contrast
are handled reasonably well, and the image is clean and clear.
The soundtrack does a good job of
presenting the narrative voiceover clearly and naturally, along with
the voices of the various interview subjects, both on the spot and in
the previously filmed segments.
Nothing. Not even a menu.
The 2004 Ironman Triathlon World
Championship DVD offers a very engaging look at an exciting race.
The background on the race and the participants is filled in nicely,
allowing viewers to get a good feel for what the overall experience
is, but most importantly, the race itself is both exciting and
presented in an engaging manner. The program stays focused on the
race action from beginning to end, making this a race DVD that's well
worth checking out. I'll give it a "highly recommended," as
it's a very fun viewing experience and definitely a step up from the
other Ironman DVDs that I've seen.