Ironman 70.3 champions ready for Phuket challenge

PHUKET: Organizers of the 2011 Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship welcomed athletes and officials for the start of the second annual triathlon being held at Laguna Phuket on December 4.

President of the Phuket Provincial Administration Organization (OrBorJor) Paiboon Upatising led the guest speakers and said he was particularly pleased with the organization of the event.

“On behalf of the OrBorJor, I would like to thank everyone involved with making the Ironman 70.3 such a great success, especially nearing HM the King’s birthday.”

Assistant Director of the Tourism Authority of Thailand’s Phuket Office Wannaprapa Tanhansa expressed her gratitude for the event’s influence on Phuket.

“This event is a perfect demonstration of why Thailand and Phuket are now world class destinations for sporting events, and we are all grateful for the efforts of the organizers and athletes.”

District Sales Manager of Thai Airways International Prasert Tanhansa explained why his company continues to support Laguna events.

“The organization of Laguna and the 70.3 triathlons here in Phuket are exceptional. We are very proud to be involved in these events.”

Michael Ayling, managing director of Laguna Resorts and Hotels, said he was hopeful that the Ironman 70.3 would continue to grow.

“Last year was a spectacular event and we are sure this will be even better. Over 2,000 athletes will have raced here over two weekends, proving that Phuket is a world tourism and sports destination magnet. The Laguna Swim Survival Program has just launched on the back of this triathlon festival and we hope this will help over 2,000 local children to stay safe in the water.”

Also in attendance at the press conference were four of the races top professionals due to compete tomorrow.

Melissa Rollison is the 2011 Ironman 70.3 World Champion and said she is looking forward to race day.

“I came second last year, but I hope I’m a lot fitter this time. This is the only race I’ve competed in that I haven’t won, so there’s a big incentive for tomorrow. However, there is a very talented field and this course is one of the toughest along with Las Vegas.”

The 2011 US national champion Chris Lieto is competing for the first time on Phuket.

“I’ve heard so much about this race and really wanted to come here. I rode the bike course a few days ago so I’m really looking forward to getting into the race.”

Also competing on Phuket for the first time is Michael Raelert from Germany who placed first at both the 2010 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater, Florida and the European Championship in Wiesbaden, Germany.

“I have been preparing for this race for five weeks, but now that I’m here I have almost forgotten about the triathlon. Already I have fallen in love with the country, and the organizers have done a great job.”

Faris Al-Sultan, also from Germany, has competed on Phuket previously. This year he won the 2011 Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt.

When asked if he had any advice for his fellow countryman (Raelert), Faris suggested that his compatriot should “slow down and enjoy the scenery”.

“Jokes aside, I’m looking forward to the race. It’s a challenging course. I’ll have to dig deep and play my cards well.”

The first wave of athletes will take to the water at 6.30am tomorrow morning, with the first racers due across the finish line at about 10:30am.

An awards ceremony will be held at Laguna later on Sunday evening hosted by the vivacious Whit Raymond.

The Phuket Gazette and PGTV are sponsors of the Laguna Phuket Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship.

— Neil Quail

Phuket News

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