SINGAPORE - Training buddies since 2018, friendship took a brief back seat for national triathletes Luke Chua and Bryce Chong on Sunday at the TriFactor National Sprint Championship.
Having adjusted their individual schedules to train together as much as possible, the duo were neck and neck throughout the race (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) at East Coast Park. But Chua crossed the finish line first in 1hr 26 sec to be crowned national sprint champion just two seconds ahead of his teammate.
Chong completed the race in 1:00:28 while Cedric Chua was third in 1:00:51.
Chua, 20, attributed his result to training almost every day with his Breakaway Triathlon Club teammates Chong, Cedric and two other athletes in the race.
He said: "Training with someone is always better than alone and nothing beats training with your teammates. Triathlon is an individual sport but sometimes, it's more of a team sport."
The trio are also using the race, among others, to prepare for the 2023 SEA Games in Cambodia, should they qualify and are selected.
Their last triathlon was the Desaru Coast Sprint Triathlon in July and they will be returning to Desaru in two weeks for the South-east Asian Triathlon Association Series 2022.
Chong, 24, who competed at the 2019 SEA Games, said: "All these races are data points so making sure that we have regular races on top of what we're doing in training, we'll know this is the standard we're at.
"This way, it's fair play for everyone and there's evidence that whoever is qualifying (for the SEA Games) is ready for it and is in top condition to race against South-east Asian athletes.
"Whatever we put up today is the best we can do for today, but there's definitely more to come especially after we increase our mileage and intensity in training."
Chua added that having Filipino triathletes Andrew Kim Remolino, who was second at May's Hanoi SEA Games, and two-time SEA Games triathlon champion Nikko Huelgas helped as well.
He said: "It's good exposure for us and I love the competition. None of us are at our peak and everyone has a lot to improve on.
"Today was just a small bit of what we can do and I know we can do a lot more and we're looking forward to that. This is just the beginning"
Over 1,200 people participated in the TriFactor Triathlon Singapore, which was held for the first time since 2019 and included standard, long and kids categories.
Chua, who finished seventh in Hanoi, said: "(I missed) the atmosphere and the pressure (of having a regular race). Nothing beats having an actual race. It's something you can't replicate.
"That feeling you have at a mass start with everyone jostling for position; it can't be beaten by a virtual race or (staggered starts during) races during Covid-19, so being back to racing like during pre-Covid days is good."
The Philippines' Raven Alcoseba won the women's title in 1:06:46.