LANGKAWI: Nothing short of a victory will do for former world Ironman champion Faris Al-Sultan in tomorrow’s Langkawi Ironman Triathlon race.
The German with Iraqi roots, who won the 2005 world title in Hawaii with an 8’14:17 finish, will be competing in Malaysia for the first time.
And the 30-year-old is determined to kick off the 2008 season on a winning note.
“I did not come here to finish eighth, but to win the race. The glory days of being a world champion may be long gone and I had a bad season last year. Therefore, I need to get good results soon to get back on track,” said Faris yesterday.
When asked why he chose to compete in Langkawi as it is one of the hottest races in the Ironman series, Faris replied: “I like competing in hot courses. The annual World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, is also held in hot conditions and I intend to utilise the Langkawi race as preparation for the season-ending competition.
“I am planning to compete in just three races this year, so it is important to make a winning start in Langkawi and earn a ticket to the World Championships.”
The Langkawi Ironman offers 35 spots for this year’s world meet.
Besides Langkawi and Hawaii, Faris also intends to compete in his home Ironman in Frankfurt.
The German cited the hot Langkawi climate as a bigger challenge to him than the other competitors here in Malaysia.
“I have prepared for the last three months for this race. My biggest task would be to survive the climate, and I need to remain calm at all times to overcome the heat,” said Faris.
“I have checked out the course, and apart from a few hills in the cycling leg, it is not too demanding.
“Among the other competitors, I am wary of the threat posed by Petr Vabrousek (of the Czech Republic). He is a very good runner and has the ability to catch me during the run leg. There are also several triathletes who are used to competing in this part of the world and can spring a surprise or two.”
For the first time since the Langkawi Ironman series began in 2000, Malaysia have the biggest number of entries with 148 participants.
In the past, it was either Singapore or Japan who normally sent the biggest contingents here.
This year, Singapore listed 136 entries while Japan have 109 contestants in Langkawi.
A total of 690 triathletes from 38 countries will be flagged off in tomorrow’s race, but not all are expected to complete the demanding course.