Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ironman Malaysia: Ah Thiam may miss World Championship

WONG Ah Thiam, who qualified for World Ironman Championship, is in serious doubt of making the trip to Kona, Hawaii due to lack of funds.

The 34-year-old triathlete finished an impressive third in the 30-34 age group and 21st overall in the Malaysia Ironman in Langkawi on Saturday to earn an automatic spot for Kona.

"Of course I am happy to have made it to Kona but I am not satisfied with my time. I was aiming to go about nine hours 45 minutes but I pushed myself too much on the bike which affected my run," said Ah Thiam who clocked 10:03:59.

"The new cycling course was really challenging with some slopes and the wind is also another factor. It was very different and tiring compared to previous championships."

His best result prior to Saturday was sixth in 2005 when the field was severely cut due to the tsunami which hit Langkawi on Dec 26, 2004.
The former national cyclist competed in Kona in 2005 and 2006, and is hopeful to compete there again with the help of the Sports Ministry and sponsors.

"It cost me a lot to go to Kona so I really hope that this year the ministry and some private companies could help," he said. "It is a World Championship held once a year, so I really want to go," he said.

Ah Thiam's best result in Kona was a 343th placing (out of 1,680) in 2006 clocking 10:00:57s which is also his personal best.

The athlete said the growing number of Malaysians in this year's race showed that the sport is gaining popularity in the country.

"Many of them (competitors) are serious about it and pay for everything themselves just to compete so, hopefully, the ministry will start looking at it as a serious sporting event."

Carmen Leong, who competed in the women's category and finished 16th overall in a time of 12:39.09, also qualified for Kona.

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