OVER 2,000 participants including elite triathletes and relay racers battle it out for honors in the Cobra Ironman 70.3 on Sunday at the Shangri-La Mactan Resort in Lapu-Lapu City.
Defending world champion Pete Jacobs of Australia heads a stellar cast in the pro division of the 1.2-mile open water swim, 56-mile bike ride, and 13.1-mile run event.
Jacobs is gunning for a fourth straight championship against a tough field that includes two-time former world titlist Chris McCormack of Australia, last year’s runner-up Cameron Brown of New Zealand and third placer Mathieu O’Halloran, a Canadian based in the Philippines.
In the women’s pro division, Swiss national Caroline Steffen returns to defend her title she won over Bree Wee of the United States. Belinda Granger is also tipped as a favorite after the Australian ruled the event’s version in Kona, Hawaii earlier this year.
Monica Torres, the country’s top-ranked female triathlete who has turned pro after topping the Filipino elite division four years in a row, is the only Filipino pro in the event.
A record 2,150 participants and over 600 more in the waiting list have registered for the event, which drew 400 people in its inaugural staging four years ago.
“I never thought that five years after starting this, Ironman will grow this big,” chief organizer Fred Uytengsu said. “We would have wanted to accommodate everyone but we didn’t want to compromise the safety and security of the participants.”
Uytengsu, the head honcho of the Alaska franchise in the PBA, is among the celebrities seeing action along with Arnel Pineda, known worldwide as apl.de.ap and member of the Grammy award-winning hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas, leads the cast of celebrities.
The Filipino-American artist will be joined by actors Piolo Pascual and Mateo Guidicelli, television hosts Isabelle Daza, Drew Arellano and Kim Atienza, and Senator Pia Cayetano, among others.
Pineda will participate in the cycling leg of the team relays.
Meanwhile, the Alaska Ironkids race for kids between 6 and 14 years old, started on Saturday but completed only two divisions after a brief thunderstorm cancelled the races in the lower age groups.
It marked the first time that inclement weather disrupted the competition, which didn’t resume after the weather cleared as the organizers put ahead the welfare and safety of the participants.
Arno Baetz of Hong Kong ruled the boys’ 13-14 division with a time of 29 minutes and 59 seconds, while Justin Liam Chiongbian finished just seven seconds behind for a strong second place. Brent Valelo rounded out the Top Three, clocking 30:22.
Shaia Ruth Uy of Dipolog beat Alexandra Leather of Makati in the girls’ 13-14 class by just three seconds with a time of 34:32. Maria Margarita delos Reyes finished third in 34:50.
In the boys’ 11-12 division, Bambam Manglicmot of Quezon City reigned supreme, crossing the finish line in 31:38. Joshua Uy of Dipolog and Nathan Nalo of Mabalacat finished second and third, respectively.
It was runaway victory in the girls’ 11-12 division with Laurena Justine Plaza of Biñan clocking 33:02, over two minutes ahead of Nicole Danielle Eijasantos of QC (35:43), followed by Samantha Borlain, who finished in 35:54.
The top finishers:
13-14 (boys): A. Baetz 29:59, J.L. Chiongbian 30:06, B. Valelo 30:22, L.V. Plaza 30:22, R. E. So 31:37, D. Galolo 34:06, T.M. Sibayan 34:27, K.Z. Bartolata 34:44, A.V. Castillo 34:57, R.J. Tayag 35:02
13-14 (girls): S.R. Uy 34:32, A. Leather 34:35, M. delos Reyes 34:50, A.R. Mataragnon 34:53, G. Ellis 34:58, M.I. Priagula 35:10, I.D. Kapunan 38:09, A.J. Tan 40:15, L. Davis 42:04, D.K. Sy 42:13
11-12 (boys): B. Manglicmot 31:38, C.J. Uy 33:31, N. Nalo 34:09, E. Mengorio, L.M. Crisostomo 36:59, J. Tan 37:00, G. Leather 37:26, J.B. Bernard Sarmiento 37:26, B. Laxa-Pangilinan 37:27, F. Diaz 37:55
11-12 (girls): L.J. Plaza 33:02, N.D. Eijasantos 35:43, S. Borlain 35:54, S. Almendral 37:30, P.F. Suarez 40:44, U. Sibayan 40:51, L. Hann 40:53, N. Villaba 41:32, N. Archival 45:14, T. Malapad 45:30