Triathletes to tackle Korean course

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Triathletes to tackle Korean course

Famous for fisheries and Admiral Yi Sun Shin’s Victory of Han San, Tongyeong, a small town in the center of the Hallyeo Maritime National Park, has also been building a reputation as a prime site for triathlons.
The town in South Gyeongsan province on the southern tip of Korea is hosting the Tongyeong ITU Triathlon World Cup for professionals today and an International Triathlon for amateurs tomorrow.
Last year, members of the International Triathlon Union (ITU) voted the Tongyeong World Cup one of the top three triathlons in the world. The beauty of the National Hallyeo Marine Park, clear sea water, gently rolling hills, flat courses, sports-loving citizens, the 150 islands off of the coast of Tongyeong ― the reasons are many.
Organizers are expecting more than 70 elite athletes for today’s event, which will be aired live on MBC. The men’s event starts at 11:30 a.m., the women’s at 2 p.m. Contenders will have to tackle a 1.5-kilometer swim, followed by a 40-kilometer cycling course and a 10-kilometer run over hills.
World-renowned triathletes such as Chris Hill from Australia, Machiko Nakanishi from Japan and Carol Montgomery from Canada are competing. Hill is the defending champion of last year’s Tongyeong World Cup event.
Lee Hye-rim is the only Korean female athlete in the World Cup event. Kwak Chung-won, Moon Si-eun and Lee Haeng-joon are the three Korean men in the World Cup event. The champion in both the male and female divisions will each receive prize money of 1 million won ($860).
The elite athletes hail from 20 different countries, including Wayne Rice, who’s flying in from South Africa. It’s his first World Cup tournament; in the under-23 age group, he’s an athlete to watch.
Winning a World Cup event counts for 500 points toward a triathlete’s rank; the most important event is the Summer Olympics, which counts for 1,000 points. Rankings are based on points earned at races throughout the year.
The 610 participants in tomorrow’s amateur event face a 1.5-kilometer swim, 40-kilometer cycling race, and a flat 10-kilometer run. The winners in the male and female divisions will each receive 300,000 won.
The city held its first triathlon in 2000 with 400 athletes. A handful of expatriates participated, but most of the competitors were Korean. The event became part of the World Cup series in 2003.
In Korea, triathlons are gaining in popularity. When the Korea Triathlon Federation opened in 2000, 1,000 people signed up as members. This year, there are 4,000.
“After a while, some athletes become bored with the marathon,” says Ki Woo-kyong, the assistant secretary general of the Korea Triathlon Federation. “Triathlons are fun, you know, and every weekend there’s the question of, ‘What shall I do today? Run, swim or cycle?’”

by Joe Yong-hee

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