Nick Munting reports on the 2009 Aviva Ironman 70.3 Singapore
It could have been called the Singapore Sling -- shot!
Mix a couple of Ironman world champions, blend in some of the fastest antipodeans in Ironman and Olympic distance and stir well; pour into a high humidity atmosphere, add heat and let loose on a high speed city bound triathlon course and then stand back, well back. This may have been an early season race, but it was certainly a race to remember!
For the current Ironman World Champion, Australia's Craig Alexander, Ironman 70.3 Singapore was all about settling some scores, a chance to overcome memories and demons from his 2007 race here, where a flat tire ruined his lead and his race. He had the double delight this year of emulating his winning race in Hawaii, again edging out all competitors, including 2007 Ford Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack, for the victory.
Alexander delivered a text book race strategy, shutting down most challengers at the 60km mark on the bike, and then simply out-running McCormack for the Singapore crown. It was a striking display of strategy, good form and a true champion at work!
His time of 3:47:24 was over eight minutes faster than the 2008 winning time set by Aussie Olympian, Simon Thompson, and it was three minutes ahead of McCormack's second placed time this year. True, the ever smiling McCormack kept pace with the champ throughout most part of the race, but faded a little towards the finish, crossing the finishing line in a time of 3:50:42.
Thompson, despite breaking his 2008 time and writing a personal best over the Ironman 70.3 course, finished third in 3:54:28 but was also happy given he'd come into the early race underdone and looking to see where to improve for the coming season.
Ever the racer's racer, Alexander was happy with his early season form in the stellar cast.
"I am very happy to win the race and this was a really prestigious win for me as it was a great race, with an extremely high calibre group of athletes," said Alexander.
"I think it was great that the organizers managed to attract so many big names, as it is not often that you get such a great group of athletes together due to different race and training schedules. What makes a race difficult is not the terrain but the quality of the field, so winning the race today against such strong competitors was a fantastic feeling for me," he added.
Behind the Aussie trio, was a fourth Aussie in Pete Jacobs, who ran in to fourth place, with Brazil's Reinaldo Colucci breaking the down-under stranglehold to take fifth for Brazil. "PJ" had just a week or two prior to Singapore beaten "Crowie" for the Australian Long Distance title, Colucci had been the inaugural winner on this course.
In the women's category, it was anything but a great day out for the Aussies as 'dark horse' Jodie Swallow from Great Britain, a three-time London Triathlon winner and three-time British short course champ, scorched her way to the win in an all conquering time of 4:19:11. Swallow's win was as decisive as it was fast, her time over ten minutes ahead of New Zealand's Andrea Hewitt, who made it a one-two for the women Olympians in the field, taking second after fighting back from third in the early part of the run in 4:30:25, and just edging out Canadian (who represented the Czech Republic during her ITU racing career) Tereza Macel, who finished third in 4:30:42.
Swallow was awesome in her race; never looking behind, going 100% in her effort to take the win and she finished in eighth place overall as a just reward, and ten minutes ahead of the next woman.
"It was so hot out there," said the physically exhausted winner at the finish line, "I was stung by jelly fish and I missed drinks on the run and it was so humid."
Swallow took some time to recover after the finish line and later spoke of a tough race. "I wanted it to rain so badly, but it didn't. This made it such a tough race, so tough. But I'm so glad I won!"
Her win was testimony to a never say die attitude that won her a whole heap of new friends and some true respect from fellow competitors...
Behind the leading trio of women, the Czech Republic's Lucie Zelenkova (racing for South Africa) was fourth ahead of the lone Aussie on the women's Podium in Kate Major.
Major nearly didn't make the race after being 'bumped' from her flight to Singapore and she arrived only late Saturday do race, and headed from Singapore to her second home in the US to prepare for her new season ahead.
Early in the women's race, defending champ, Rebekah Keat was forced out of the race at the end of the first lap of the bike leg, after jelly fish stings suffered in the swim, numbed her arm to a point she could no longer brake on the bike. Then Dutchwoman, Yvonne van Vlerken shredded a tire and was also out just as she gained on the leading riders after her customary slower swim.
Leading age groupers were Hong Kong's Kevin Clark for the men, and Singapore's Rachel Gaudry for the women.
Jeanette Wang topped the local women's category, beating 29 others to become Singapore's fastest female Ironman, while Yong Chun Seng topped the local men's category.
The race qualified up to 75 racers to the Foster Grant Ironman World Championship, amongst them the Aviva Inspirational Athlete, the first Singaporean to actually make it to Clearwater, courtesy of title sponsor Aviva, who has sponsored one athlete for entry, accommodation and travel to the USA!
The 2009 Aviva Ironman 70.3 Singapore attracted 1,000 triathletes, nearly 60% from 43 countries! Event organizers, Hi-Tri Singapore, were extremely pleased with the smooth running and success of the race, which was marred only by an unknown person or persons who threw tacks (drawing pins) on the cycle route at a spectator point; which were quickly cleared by the bike course marshals, but not before creating a number of punctures.
The premier Asian Ironman 70.3, the Aviva race hasn't suffered from the move to March and with comprehensive world-wide ESPN International and ESPN Asia / Star TV coverage once again this year, Singapore will be well highlighted in the coming season as a place to race and enjoy, and the race will be back in the third week of March 2010.