Triathlon: Trying to do more for triathlon

Triathletes competing in the Aviva Ironman 70.3 Singapore in 2012, the last Ironman event held in the Republic. The TAS is looking into possibly bringing back the race.
Triathletes competing in the Aviva Ironman 70.3 Singapore in 2012, the last Ironman event held in the Republic. The TAS is looking into possibly bringing back the race.ST FILE PHOTO

TAS' new committee hopes to offer more support to athletes, bring big events back

It has been nearly a decade since Singapore's triathletes last won gold at the SEA Games.

While that is largely due to the sport's hiatus at the biennial event from 2009-2013, Singapore managed just a bronze on home soil last year, when Willie Loo finished third in the men's competition.

In 2007, Mok Ying Ren ensured the Republic won back-to-back men's titles. In 2005, Cheng Jing Hean also took gold while compatriot Alisa Ng claimed the women's bronze.

Now, the Triathlon Association of Singapore (TAS) is hoping a new look and a fresh approach will help the Republic return to the top of the podium at next year's Games in Kuala Lumpur.

It has set a target of winning a medal each in the men's and women's triathlons, and is hoping that better preparation for the athletes will help it to achieve that aim.

To that end, it has identified the need for the team to be selected earlier and will be conducting selection trials on Jan 14 for the biennial event. That will give the six selected athletes, including two reserves, more time to prepare for the Kuala Lumpur Games in August.

Last year, the selection trials were held in March, just three months before the Games.


DAVID HOONG (above), Triathlon Association of Singapore president, on listening to the triathletes.

David Hoong, the TAS president, explained: "Previously, the problem was that there wasn't enough time to adequately help our athletes to prepare for the SEA Games.

"We want to address this problem. We hope that a seven-month period will help us to get more funding to support our athletes too."

COMMUNICATION IS KEY

We want to engage them, to have more discussions with them, to identify their needs and know what their plans are so that we can know how to better support them.

DAVID HOONG Triathlon Association of Singapore president, on listening to the triathletes.

Loo, 33, added: "I can see the value of an earlier confirmation on who gets selected, because there's more certainty which will help me in approaching and planning for which races to go for.

"For instance, if you know that you've been selected for the SEA Games, you'll take the upcoming races more seriously as compared to seeing them as just a training race."

Meanwhile, the new TAS executive committee led by Hoong, who was elected the new president at its annual general meeting in August, intends to embark on a higher level of engagement with the athletes.

Said the 63-year-old: "Currently, the athletes are not getting much support from us and we have left almost everything to them.

"All of them are either self-coached or they employ their own coaches and have their own training programmes. They come for selection trials and then they go back to doing their own things.

"We want to engage them, to have more discussions with them, to identify their needs and know what their plans are so that we can know how to better support them."

National triathlete Bryce Chong, 19, is a case in point. He is in Brisbane for a month-long training stint with a group of about 10 athletes under Australian coach Warwick Dalziel. The Republic Polytechnic student, who has done this twice this year, is the only Singaporean among the group, which includes the first triathlete from Israel to compete at the Olympics, Ron Darmon.

When he is back in Singapore, Chong follows the training programme set by Dalziel and he runs alone on weekdays.

He said: "For now, the main thing which I rely on them (TAS) is when I want to sign up for races."

Loo said that apart from major Games, there had not been much communication between the TAS and the team.

He said: "Over the years, we've been pretty much left to our own devices and we've learnt not to rely on (the TAS' funding) entirely.

"You're more or less training on our own until you get selected for the national team, and then maybe a few races will be funded."

TAS' deputy president Eugene Lee agreed, noting: "At the moment, they might not even see the need for us because they are funding most of their races themselves."

The TAS intends to organise a centralised overseas training camp.

Winona Howe, 21, who represented Singapore at last year's SEA Games and is based in China, noted that while athletes often prefer their own coaches and training methods, "it will be good if our association gives the athletes good options for training as well".

Locally, the TAS intends to spice up the calendar by exploring the idea of hosting an International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Cup or World Series event. The TAS has opened discussions with Ironman Asia on the idea of bringing these international triathlon events here.

This year, the TAS held 11 events, including a duathlon, an aquathlon, the Tri-Factor series, and the Singapore International Triathlon, the only ITU-sanctioned local race. Most were either Olympic distance (1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run) or shorter.

Hoong also welcomes the idea of staging a long-distance event like an Ironman triathlon (3.8km swim, 180km bike and a 42.195km marathon) or an Ironman 70.3 (1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run) here.

He noted: "We don't have a long-distance event, so it'll be good to have that again so that the sports fraternity can have the chance to do a race here besides going overseas."

The last Ironman event here was the 2012 Aviva Ironman 70.3. The swimming leg was held in the waters off the East Coast while the cycling and running legs took place along the East Coast Parkway. It was discontinued after six years.

However, Hoong also cautioned against jumping the gun, saying: "Everything is just at the discussion stage until the Public Utilities Board (PUB) allows swimming in the (Marina) bay."

With all the changes afoot, the TAS hopes to change the way athletes view the sports association.

Said Lee: "We hope they can see us as more than just an endorsement body."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2016, with the headline 'Trying to do more for triathlon'. Print Edition | Subscribe