Triathlon: Many challenges but Singapore's Wille Loo and Clement Chow eye gold at SEA Games

National triathletes Willie Loo (left) and Clement Chow will settle for nothing less than a gold at the KL SEA Games.
National triathletes Willie Loo (left) and Clement Chow will settle for nothing less than a gold at the KL SEA Games.PHOTO: ORANGE ROOM FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - They may be underdogs, but national triathletes Wille Loo and Clement Chow are targeting nothing less than a one-two finish at the upcoming SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.

"We don't just want to match our performances from two years ago. We won't be happy with that," said Loo, who won the bronze medal in the 2015 SEA Games on home soil (2hr 7min 1sec), with Chow (2:07:30) coming in fourth. "The gold medal has always been the target."

Filipino Nikko Huelgas won the gold then in 2:04:32, and the Singapore duo reckon he is the favourite again this year.

The Republic has not won a gold medal in the triathlon at the SEA Games since 2007, when triathlete-turned-marathoner Mok Ying Ren won in Thailand.

Loo acknowledged the challenge before him and Chow yesterday, noting: "We're never the favourites. Most of the others who are racing are full-time athletes, and also many years younger than us."

At 34, Loo is nearly a decade older than the 25-year-old Huelgas, who won the ASTC Triathlon Asian Championships in Indonesia last week in 2:00:50.

Both Chow and Loo also do not train full time. Chow is an auditor, while Loo is in sports distribution and also coaches.

The pair have not managed to find the time to familiarise themselves with the SEA Games route in Putrajaya, which features a swim leg in a lake instead of the open sea.

"So the first time we will see the route is when we land, two days before the race (on Aug 21)," said Loo, who has been making do with Google Maps.

With less time to train compared to their rivals, the duo revealed that they have had to "get a little creative" with training.

"When you're training full-time there are always some sessions where you take it easy a little bit and just go through the motions," said Chow, 29. "But we have to cut these out and push more every time. We don't have a choice anymore, there's no time to waste."

Which is why the pair asked to be allowed to compete in yesterday's TRI-Factor Triathlon finale at East Coast Park, which allowed them to further fine-tune their race-day strategy.

Doing the shorter sprint distance (750m swim, 20km cycle, 5km run) - which is half the standard distance - the pair finished together with a time of 1:05:35.

"The organisers were very accommodating to let us use the event for training," said a grateful Loo. "They gave us permission to draft (cycling in formation), which is normally not allowed in age-group events so we're thankful for the opportunity."

Added Chow: "This was a full-dress rehearsal for us. We got to try out all our race gear and worked on our strategy so we're quite happy with that."

The standard distance Men's Open category was won by SEA Games reserve Zacharias Low, who clocked 2:14:11 and was crowned overall TRI-Factor Series champion.

Yesterday's event also featured another familiar sporting face: Olympic rower Saiyidah Aisyah, who was competing in her first triathlon for cross-training purposes.

The 29-year-old had only learnt how to swim earlier this year, but completed the sprint distance in 1:32:6.

"I wanted to take on the challenge of knowing more about a race that involves three sports," she said. "It also helps my endurance, learning how to deal with pain mentally."