Seogwipo came to a standstill Sunday as the city hosted the 2009 Korea Triathlon Jeju, an event held only for the toughest of competitors.
Starting off at the picturesque Jungmun Beach at 7 a.m., competitors entered the sea to commence a 2.4 mile swim. From there they jumped straight on to their bikes and cycled 112 mile bike ride along Jeju’s scenic coastal roads, fishing villages and hills before finishing with a full length marathon of 26.2 miles. Combined with cut-off times of 9:30 a.m, 5:30 p.m. and midnight for the respective sections, the triathlon is definitely not an event for the faint of heart.
This year’s event was of particular significance as it marked the tenth anniversary of the contest which is sponsored by the Jeju Special Self Governing Provincial Government and can now be said to have become a regular fixture in the Jeju sporting calendar. To celebrate this anniversary a 50 percent reduction on the entry fee was offered alongside a prize pot of 20 million won ($16,000). With a record number of 578 competitors, this year’s event was particularly successful.
While Jeju may be famous for its glorious warm summers and blue skies, Sunday’s weather was overcast with occasional drizzle and a much lower level of humidity than in recent year’s events. This was of particular benefit to the competitors according to volunteer race organizer Michael Wright who said that “less hot weather has led to less incidents of injury this year.” Mr Wright also favorably compared Jeju’s climate to that of this year’s China Ironman in Haikou, where temperatures reached a scorching 113 degrees fahrenheit.
The clouds and drizzle didn’t put off the local residents though as they sat beside the track cheering on the competitors and enjoying the spectacle. It was particularly busy at the final stretch around E-Mart and at the entrance to World Cup Stadium, as people applauded those coming to the end of the race and encouraged those with one more circuit to go. It was a carnival-like atmosphere enjoyed by all which has led to the triathlon becoming one of the most anticipated annual sporting events in Jeju.
The race itself lived up to expectations and despite an impressive performance from Australian Cameron Watts was won by the experienced Jan Rehula from Plzen, Czech Republic. Rehula, 35, is well known in triathlon circles and is most famous for achieving a triathlon bronze medal in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney as well as coming second in the 1999 European Championships. He has competed seriously in Triathlon since 1991 and says that he “took up the sport because of its ecological attitude.” He currently lives in Seoul and is the coach of the Korea National Triathlon Team. Oh Young Hwan came in second – an impressive result for the 29-year-old Korean.
The triathlon is all about personal achievement and challenging oneself and the enthusiasm and dedication of these athletes may well pass on to the spectators of the event. While not many of us will ever be able to complete a triathlon perhaps some of us will be persuaded to work out a little more often, climb one of Jeju’s famous Oreums, or swim at one of the beautiful beaches. One thing is for sure – Jeju is an ideal location for this and maybe before long we will see it produce its own triathlon winner.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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