PHUKET: Michael Raelert’s dazzling performance and character shone through at a wet and overcast Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship for the German to take the 2011 title at Laguna Phuket and in the process demolished the course record.
When most consider a cautious approach to navigating Phuket during inclement conditions, the two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion powered through the 1.9km swim, 90km bike and 21.1km run courses to rip a massive eight minutes off the old record and finish five minutes ahead of the Australian assault from Richie Cunningham and Paul Matthews.
Unable to defend his Ironman World championship title at Las Vegas in September due to injury, Raelert was determined to end his season successfully. His determination paid dividends crossing the line in a record time of 03:51:36 to claim his first Phuket Ironman 70.3 triathlon title and a prize purse of US$12,000.
An ecstatic Raelert expressed delight at winning Phuket’s challenging Ironman 70.3.
“After the setbacks of this season it’s great to end on a high note with a good win and I’m sure this will be a springboard for my next season. I’m already looking forward to returning next year to defend my title,” said Raelert
Raelert won with a swim time of 00:23:24; bike of 02:14:17 and run of 01:11:15. Cunningham, Laguna Phuket Triathlon champion in 2008, was runner-up on 03:57:16 with a swim time of 00:23:55, bike of 02:14:07 and run of 01:16:44; and Matthews finished on 03:58:24 with a swim time of 00:23:39, bike of 02:14:14 and run of 01:18:02.
One of the pre-race favorites and Ironman bike specialist, Chris Lieto, was relegated to the role of spectator after a nasty bike crash forced the American to retire with an elbow injury just 20km into the 90km ride.
Melissa Rollison of Australia emphasized her dominance in the Ironman Women’s Pro category with a comfortable victory in 04:17:01. The reigning Ironman 70.3 world champion and last year’s Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship runner-up finished with a remarkable 13 minute lead over Switzerland’s Natascha Badmann who crossed the line on 04:30:42.
Laguna Phuket Triathlon 2011 women’s champion Radka Vodickova of the Czech Republic, suffered a knee injury in a bike accident after last weekend’s win, but a gutsy run in her first-ever Ironman 70.3 saw her surge through the field to finish third on 04:34:50, pushing UK star Emma-Kate Lidbury into fourth.
Rollison won with a swim time of 00:27:32; bike of 02:36:29 and run of 01:19:44; Badmann was runner-up with a swim time of 00:30:00; bike of 02:26:01 and run of 01:30:57; and Vodickova finished with a swim time of 00:26:13, bike of 02:39:04 and run of 01:26:26.
Massimo Cigana, Laguna Phuket Triathlon triple champion and crowd favorite said he would be satisfied with a top ten finish in the Ironman event after his victory last weekend. Finishing sixth in a time of 04:01:54, the Italian can be proud of his achievements over the past seven days.
It was a good day for Australia, with five Australians among the top eight men’s prize positions and three in the women’s top eight, including winner Melissa Rollison.
Top Thai male finisher was the country’s fast-rising triathlete star Jaray Jearanai of Phuket, in a personal best of 04:38:38 on his home course, with a swim time of 00:32:57, bike of 02:30:36 and run of 01:31:13. Top Thai female was Nampetch Porntharukcharoen in 06:22:28, with a swim time of 00:45:09, bike of 03:18:24 and run of 02:09:55.
The day was also a triumph for the oldest competitor, 79 years-old Hiromu Inada of Japan, who finished in 06:42:01 with a swim time of 00:45:41, bike of 03:30:30 and run of 02:15:26.
The Laguna Phuket 2011 Ironman 70.3 field comprised 34 male and female international pro athletes and 1,085 age groupers representing 58 countries. Athletes competed for a total US$75,000 pro purse, championship points, as well as prestigious age group slots awarded for the 2012 Ironman 70.3 and Ironman World Championships.
The Phuket Gazette and PGTV are sponsors of the Laguna Phuket Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship.
— Neil Quail
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