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Jeju Ironman could become “international fixture”Head coach of triathlon team praises the island’s sports potential
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승인 2009.10.15  14:29:27
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▲ Team TBB “The Bike Boutique”have competed in many international triathlons. photo courtesy TBB

Jeju is a diamond in the rough, believes Brett Sutton, head coach for triathlon team TBB, (The Bike Boutique). Last year Sutton left the island to compete in the 2008 Hawaii Ironman World Championships and came home with a world title. Sutton says athletes are superstitious, and so it only makes sense that the team would return to Jeju again this year to prepare for the 2009 Ironman World Championships. Superstition aside, Sutton says that Jeju is the absolute best place in the world to train for the Ironman competition. He feels it is a gem among all other locations but that it is somewhat difficult to get to.

“For like seven years some of my athletes actually came here for the annual Jeju Ironman, the problem was the marketing was not put together properly so they came here and spent seven days in complete isolation. I have had five athletes attend and they have never seen a swimming pool,” -a key element for training, said Sutton. Later, he moved his Swiss, Brazilian and British Olympic training teams, to spend July in Jeju. Sutton said immediately he realized how much better the island was for training than Thailand or even Hawaii. “There is such a range for an international market the locals don’t know exist.” He said.

▲ TBB coach Brett Sutton. photo by Kim Gyong-ho
“I would tell the locals how fantastic their facilities were and no one would believe me,” said Sutton. “They just don’t realize what they’ve got.” Sutton owns a number of biking boutiques around the world. He says a multitude of French and German people think that the ideal vacation is jumping on a mountain bike and riding for seven days. Sutton believes the environmental holiday here is simply unsurpassed.

Team TBB has 12 world champion qualifiers and 11 came to the island to train—most of them represent a different country. Sutton says not one of them has claimed to ride on roads better than Jeju. “Most places, the back country roads are dirt, but in Jeju everything here is paved to highway grade.” He added.

Sutton says he has been to 25 different countries and claims that they all sell you the same story: “They are resorts and they want you here and they love you, but you get there and you feel awful.” He feels that unlike other resorts, Jeju residents appreciate tourists. Sutton says he has tried to get other people to come to the island but they find it extremely difficult and costly. “We will say ‘awe you should go to Jeju’…they say ‘well which airline should I take?’ Asiana Airlines—well you can’t read their site, and unless you fly Korean Air from wherever you go, it’s a nightmare.” Sutton explained. A ticket with Korean Air can cost three times as much as other airlines. “If you fly Korean Airways, I can go from Europe, Geneva to Australia, going through Seoul, for a cheaper price than I can to go to Jeju. Europeans don’t understand that.”

▲ TBB husband and wife team Stephen and Bella Bayliss. Photo courtesy TBB
Despite the hectic flight links and costly accommodation, Sutton says he and his team will continue to come to Jeju as long as they are happy. There is simply no better climate in which to train for the Hawaii World Championships. Hawaii and Jeju are both volcanic islands and have similar climates. Jeju’s location also isolates team TTB from the other teams competing, which Sutton feels allows his team to focus on their goals.

Sutton also feels that if Jeju held their annual Ironman competition in September rather than July he could guarantee at least 1500 people would show up. The temperature in July is just too high to hold a triathlon. Last July a record 578 competitors showed up at Jeju’s event. “Jeju Ironman Marathon could be an international fixture forever,” he asserted.

“In September everyone is looking for a race. Not just because we are here, but because all the good athletes are looking for somewhere to race before they go to Hawaii, and there is just nowhere to do it. They use to do it in Singapore but they replaced it with a car race and moved the marathon to April, and they had 1500 racers. Places like Thailand and the Philippines […] are nowhere near as safe or as clean as Jeju,” he explained. Sutton feels strongly that the global recognition Jeju would get from an international race would make a huge splash- so much so that he believes Jeju could become the hub of Asia for triathlon events.

In this year's Ironman Championship, team TBB finished with two female professional athletes in the top ten: Tereza Macel 4th, and Rebekah Keat 5th.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (
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