Jerry Kasim, the head coach of Jerry Aquatics Swimming Team in Davao City (Philippines), died after suffering a fatal heart attack during the swimming portion of the Ironman 70.3 in Davao on March 26th. He was 49.
His death came to the surprise of family and friends, as Kasim’s sister, Sanita Kasima Soren, noted that their family did not have a history of cardiovascular disease.
Kasim worked as a member of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Davao City, while also running his own swim club. Kasim was described by his former athletes as someone who had a profound impact on their lives, and helped create life-long memories.
One of his former athletes, Andi Espiritu, posted the following message on facebook after hearing of Kasim’s death.
“Ever since I was a kid, alongside Coach Ali, you were the person who coached me. I will surely miss the chats we had during swimming, the times where you challenged me in swimming, and mostly the way you coached me.”
Before Kasim was a coach, he competed for Palarong Pampook, Palarong Pambansa, and the Private School Athletic Association as a swimmer.
Kasim was given a traditional Muslim burial on March 27th.
Although very uncommon, there is research to suggest that individuals who participate in triathlons are at a higher risk of cardiac arrest than the annual risk for general population adults.
In 2017, a published study on triathlon data from 1985 to 2016 found that 135 individuals died or suffered cardiac arrest during triathlons, 90 of which occurred during the swimming portion. The study also points to “clinically silent” cardiovascular disease being present in many of the athletes who died. Additional research indicates that the high rate of swimming fatalities in triathlons can also be tied to slow response time of first responders when victims are in the water.
The Ironman 70.3 in Davao requires athletes to complete a 1.9km (1.2 miles) swim, 90km (56 mile) bike ride, and a 21.1km (13.1 mile) run. The distances in this race are half of a traditional Ironman Triathlon.