As easy as one-two-three: classy Hong Kong juniors sweep podium at Asian Triathlon Championships
Hong Kong’s junior triathletes gave their sport a massive boost in their quest to regain elite status when they stormed to a one-two-three finish at the Asian Championships in Hiroshima on Friday.
James Tan was the first to cross the line after the 750-metre swim, 20km bike and 5km run with a time of 57 minutes and 55 seconds, followed by Michael Lam, who was just six seconds behind. Third place went to Mark Yu Shing-him in 58:03. Three Japanese athletes were in hot pursuit, followed by two South Koreans in the race involving more than 40 participants on the opening day of the championships.
A jubilant Tan said they had to fend off the Japanese challenge.
“They attacked hard during the ride but we managed to hang in there,” said Tan. “I would like to thank my teammates who pushed me throughout the race. This is a moment that I will never forget.”
The winner also paid tribute to his coaches, Andrew Wright and Kate Rutherford, for their support throughout his young career.
Rutherford, 43, will also take part in the elite women race on Saturday, one of the three senior events Hong Kong need to get a medal in Hiroshima if the sport wants to make a quick return to the Sports Institute’s elite programme after being axed last year for failing to meet the requirements.
Promising Oscar Coggins, another Hong Kong hope in the event, was forced to quit after a crash on his bike. “He tried to attack and built up a 10-metre lead on a front pack of riders when it happened in the second lap. But he is fine,” said runner-up Lam.
Head coach Patrick Kelly was delighted. “The result has confirmed our young athletes are developing in the right direction. This indicates a strong future for the sport leading up to the 2018 Asian Games and perhaps the Tokyo Olympics two years later,” said the coach.
There was some good racing with 15 athletes coming into the bike-run transition. Six Japanese athletes led the way out of the transition, chased closely by four Hong Kong athletes and a South Korean.
Approaching the finish, it was clear the podium honours would be fought out between the Hong Kong athletes and their Japanese rivals. But the Hong Kong trio was able to pull away before it came down to a sprint finish with Tan, a fierce competitor, running ahead to take a well deserved victory.
With their dominance in the race, the Hong Kong junior men team also took the team event title.