Chattanooga has rolled out the welcome mat for thousands of world class athletes. 45- hundred athletes representing 90 countries have arrived in Chattanooga to compete in the Ironman World Championships.

The majority of the international athletes arrived to Ironman Village to pick up their race information. For many of them it's not only their first time in Chattanooga, it's their first time in the United States.

Downtown Chattanooga has turned into the world's stage. Athletes from across the globe are in town to compete in the Ironman World Championships. “It is amazing, I love it.  Really really nice. I didn't expect it. Turned out to be a very nice small city, has everything!” said Ahmad Alfahin.

Countries as far away as South Africa, Korea, and Dubai are represented by athletes competing for a shot at the title. “I don't know how to explain it, a big thing for me. A big milestone for my life. I am very excited.”

Forty-two is the average age of competitors, but Channel 3 met many who are much younger.

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    Maria Alejandra is the youngest athlete in the competition, traveling thousands of miles from Costa Rica.  “Oh ya, I am only 18!” But no matter the age,  these athletes take their training seriously. They said it takes years of practice and commitment to be an Ironman. When I am competing in the moment, I am full of energy. It is so amazing, so excited. I feel a lot of emotions.”

    Mike Lynch traveled from New Zealand. He's competed in over 15 Ironman competitions. He said during the six hours it takes to complete the course, he tries to keep a clear mind.

    “When I am swimming I am thinking I would like to get on the bike because this sucks. When I am biking, I am thinking I would like to get on the run because this really sucks. And when I am running I am thinking I would really like a coffee because this really really sucks,” said Lynch.

    Each Athlete offers their own tips for preparing for race day.

    “You trim down from three beers a day to one for the lead up. That's the best advice I can give an athlete training for a championship,” said Lynch.

    “Anything is possible. Look where I am right now. I would've never imagined this. Follow your dreams and never give up,” said Alexandra.

    For the first time in Ironman history, the competitions are split into two races.

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    The women will compete on Saturday. The men compete on Sunday.

    The roughly 4,000 athletes who will compete this weekend in the world championship came from a pool of 185,000 athletes from around the world.