Race Report

Singapore Duathlon 2013

Cheong and Ong crowned national champs but Middleditch and Colless beat all-comers

Words by Alan Grant

The last of Singapore’s endurance kings and queens for 2013 were crowned on Saturday as Dex Cheong and Kaifen Ong took the main event titles at the Singapore Duathlon National Championships on a sweltering morning at the East Coast Park on October 26.

Cheong covered the punishing 10km run/36km bike/5km run Standard Distance course in a time of 2:01:37, to beat runner up Bi’ao Brandon Tung by five minutes, with Jeremy Sng taking the final podium spot in third. Women’s champ Ong completed the course in 2:24:28 to also enjoy a big winning margin, leaving Sara Ng in second and Desiree Koh in third.

Only Singaporeans were eligible for the national titles, but the Singapore Duathlon was open to all-comers who raced for elite and age-group glory. Vanessa Colless took the women’s Elite race, her split of 2:06:08 easily being the fastest of the day. Ong recorded the second-best time but the bragging rights for third-fastest lady went incredibly to Wendy Wilcox, who was racing in the 50+ division, showing that age is no barrier to class.

The men’s Elite title went to Caleb McInnes with a superb time of 1:54:56, but he wasn’t the fastest athlete of the day, as lurking in the age group field was one of Singapore’s premier endurance athletes, James Middleditch.

Fresh from a superb performance at the 2013 World Ironman Championships in Hawaii just two weeks previously, the man known as “Kona James”, tore round the course in a time of 1:52:55, a full two minutes quicker than McInnes. Asked post-race why he didn’t race in the Elite category, the amiable Englishman said he’d just entered for fun as his daughters were taking part in the kids and youths contests, and he wasn’t sure how his body would hold up so soon after the grueling task of the Hawaii Ironman. It seems it held up very well!

With neither man coming under any real pressure in their respective wave starts, it’s a pity the crowd didn’t get to see Middleditch and McInnes go toe to toe as the latter might have been able to find another gear had he been challenged.

The third-fastest male of the day also came from the age-group field, Clifford Scott taking that honour in a time of 1:58:17.

By the time the elite race kicked the day’s program off at 8am, the temperature was already approaching 30 degrees Celsius and with no cloud cover the sun shone down relentlessly all morning on the 1,000 athletes who took part in the various Standard, Sprint, Youths and Kids races on offer.

The heat only added to the suffering that is guaranteed by taking part in a duathlon. For the uninitiated, a run-bike-run race takes the pain stakes a notch or two higher than what is experienced in its much more popular swim-bike-run cousin, the triathlon. In the latter, minimal use of the lower limbs is required no matter how long or hard the initial swim portion is, but riding a bike after pounding out the first run in a duathlon feels like a completely alien task, with heavy, lactic-acid filled legs, struggling to push out the usual power they are accustomed to. And then the competitors are required to run again!

Perhaps this was why there were slightly more competitors taking part in the Sprint Distance races, where the athletes faced a 5km run/18km bike/2.5km course, although those distances still represented a tough task, especially as the Sprints started later in the morning with the sun getting stronger.

Emerging victorious as National Champs over the Sprint Distance in the adult fields were Adeline Leow (1:20:22) and Nicholas Lee (1:05:52), taking the women’s and men’s crowns respectively.

While Lee’s time was the fastest among all-comers, with Donald Bain and Jing Jie Li recording the second- and third-best efforts, two non-Singaporean women went quicker than Leow. Kathryn Campbell’s time of 1:17:06 gave her the fastest split of the day, just ahead of Melanie Keppler.

The Juniors, those aged 16-19, also raced over the Sprint Distance and Denise Chia took the female National Champ title, her time of 1:14:25 outstripping all the adult women. Benedict Lee took the male junior National Champion in style, with his time of 1:06:57 only being bettered by Lee and Bain among the adults.

In the Youths race, where the 14-15 and 12-13 age group categories started together, the young American Kyle Izzo completely outclassed the field, taking the lead right from the gun and never relinquished it over the 1.5km/12km/1.5km contest. His winning time of 35:10 was a full two and half minutes quicker than runner-up Aaron Shane Tan of Singapore. Tan’s effort saw him crowned the National Champ in the 14-15 division, while third across the line was Jack Grant, whose performance was notable in that he was actually racing in the 12-13 age group category.  The National Champion in the boys 12-13 category was Jordan Ng.

Among the Youth girls, Sasza Koczanowski took the honours as fastest of the day, but she was pushed hard, only winning by four seconds from Katie Mullan, an athlete from the 12-13 division. Third across the line and taking the 14-15 National title was Talisa Wilson.

The youngest competitors of the day were the Kids aged 8 to 11, and they tackled a distance of 750m/6km/750m. Like the Youths, they all raced together but were split into two categories. In the boys’ race, Caleb McMahon Jones took the line honours, beating Brandon Norton and Valentin Van Wersch into second and third. Norton’s consolation for his narrow loss was becoming National Champ in the 10-11 division, while Julian Lee took that honour in the 8-9 category.

In the girls’ race it was the familiar name of Middleditch winning the overall contest, with Emma, daughter of James, standing on the top spot of the podium. The runner-up was Elizabeth Liau, who also became National Champ in the 10-11 category. The third-fastest girl was Natalie Hunter from the 8-9 age group, providing another example of a young athlete outperforming most of her older peers. Taking the National Champ title in the 8-9 division was Elizabeth Rose.

For full results across all race distances and age groups go to www.singaporeduathlon.com.

While the Singapore Duathlon, a joint venture between the Triathlon Association of Singapore and MetaSport, marks the end of the local multisport program for this year, the schedule for 2014 is already shaping up, with the New Moon Khcycle MetaSprint Series in February, March and April, and the Singapore Aquathlon, Singapore Triathlon and the next Singapore Duathlon all set to return in next year too. There’s never been a better time to be an endurance athlete in Singapore!

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