SUBIC BAY — Many-time Ironman champion Luke McKenzie and Belinda Granger capped Australia’s dominant finish in the men’s and women’s events on Sunday following their strong performances in the second edition of the Century Tuna 5i50 Triathlon Philippine Series.
McKenzie, fresh from a title conquest in the 2013 Ironman Cairns in Queensland, Australia, came up with a burst of energy in the 40-kilometer bike race to atone for a slow start in the swim on the way to capturing the men’s title in one hour, 59 minutes, 25 seconds.
“The most difficult part for me was probably the swim because I didn’t start well. But when I got to the bike, I felt good as I established the lead,” said the 31-year-old from Noosa Heads, Australia.
Fellow Australians Benny Allen and Michael Murphy took second (2:02.40) and third places (2:05.46), respectively.
In the women’s side, the 42-year-old Granger successfully defended the crown she won last year after clocking 2:17.33, more than seven minutes ahead of compatriot Michelle Gailey, who came in at 2:24.09.
“Obviously, my goal today was to finish as strong as I could,” said Granger, who recently ruled the 2013 Ironman 70.3 in Hawaii.
“I knew I was quite ahead for a few minutes. But you never know, these girls are great athletes,” she added, referring to Gailey and United Kingdom’s Jacqui Slack, who took third place with her time of 2:26.05.
Meanwhile, locals John Leerams Chicano, Jonard Saim and Nikko Huelga took the fifth to seventh spots, respectively to finish 1-2-3 in the battle for honors in the men’s Filipino side.
Chicano timed 2:09.45, nearly two minutes better than his time last year, while Saim came in at 2:10.29, while Huelgas finished at 2:11.00.
Two more Filipino elite triathletes, Banjo Norte (2:13.36) and August Benedicto (2:15.18) made it to the top 10 overall finishers.
Monica Torres was the lone Filipina to break into the top 100, placing 31st overall with her time of 2:28.19.