Triathlon gets school boost

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 September, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 September, 1993, 12:00am

RECORD entries are expected for this year's Canon Ironkids on November 14, following a series of ''Triathlon in Schools'' promotion organised by the Hong Kong Triathlon Association (HKTA) within the next two months.

The HKTA launched the schools development programme yesterday with leading local triathlete Wan Shu-wah paying a visit to the Cotton Spinners' Association Prevocational School in Kwai Ching to introduce the sport.

Wan, the HKTA development officer, plans to visit 27 secondary schools during the campaign between now and the end of October. The association have so far received applications from 17 schools and they can still accommodate another 10 schools.

''We will give an introductory lecture on the sport and then organise an aquathon (swim and run) for the children,'' said Wan. ''We will leave out the cycling routine because it is safer for beginners to do only the swim and run.'' The aim of the development programme is to broaden the base of the junior triathletes, especially among Chinese students.

Triathlon for juniors has been taking place in the territory for eight years, but it was only through the Ironkids, introduced in 1991, that the sport started to attract mass participation.

The annual championships, at the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI), attracted more than 500 participants between the ages of seven and 19 in the last two years and officials expected entries to top the 550 mark for the November 14 race.

''The emphasis of the Ironkids will be to provide all participants with a fun, safe and competitive race,'' said race director Ruth Hunt.

''Swimming will be in the HKSI pool and the run and cycle will be done on closed roads, so it is a perfectly safe environment for the kids.'' The Ironkids offer three race courses to suit the physical ability of the youngsters, with the seven to 11-year-olds having to complete a 100-metre swim, four-kilometre bike and 800-metre run.

The 12 to 14s are to do a 200 m swim, eight-kilometre bike and two-kilometre run, while the course for 15 to 19s comprises the 400 m swim, 12 km bike and four-kilometre run.

The top 30 boys and girls in the two older age groups will be invited to join the national junior training course.

It was through the Ironkids that the HKTA unearthed a number of very talented young triathletes, who have since progressed to representing Hong Kong at international junior level.

Among the most outstanding youngsters ''discovered'' were Brian Bozarth, James Hartwright, Cheung Man-ho and Bobo Lee Wing-yee.

Bozarth is the 1992 Asian junior champion but he failed to finish the race this year because of a nasty fall during the cycling routine.

But Bozarth has already captured two international junior titles this year - the Taiwan and Hong Kong Championships.

Hartwright kept the territory's colours flying at this year's Asian Championships by finishing second to a Russian competitor following Bozarth's misfortune.

Man-ho also made his mark at Asian junior level by winning the Thailand Championships, in which Bobo Lee triumphed in the women's open division.

''We are extremely pleased with the way the sponsorship has developed over the last two years,'' said Toshiyuki Ishii of Canon.

''Our satisfaction derives not just from the success of the Ironkids event itself, but the knowledge that our investment is helping to bring long-term dividends for Hong Kong in international competitions.

''Results have shown that Hong Kong already has one of the best, if not the best, junior teams in Asia.'' Ishii added that Canon will continue to sponsor the Ironkids and the Hong Kong junior squad in 1994 and 1995.