Saturday, February 16, 2008

Quality Field Despite Fewer Pros

ONLY 23 professionals, led by former Ironman world champions Faris Al-Sultan and Luc Van Lierde, will compete in this year's Ironman Malaysia triathlon in Langkawi on Feb 23, down from the 40 who turned up last year.

But even with the reduced number of professional competitors, the ninth edition of the Langkawi event has already attracted nearly 800 entries for its biggest ever race.

Datuk Sri Ram Sarma, president and chief executive officer of event organisers LIEM Sdn Bhd, said the reduced number of professionals does not in any way weaken the Ironman Malaysia field although he implied that the presence of Al-Sultan, the 2005 world champion of German-Iraqi parentage, and Belgian Van Lierde, the 1996 and 1999 world champion, may have deterred some professionals from competing in the US$50,000 (RM161,000) event.

"You have to remember the race is not just about the professionals but also the amateur athletes who compete to test themselves in a physically and mentally demanding endurance event and who make up more than 90 per cent of the entries. The Ironman is about these people too," said Sri Ram after a sponsorship presentation ceremony in Petaling Jaya yesterday.

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