READY FOR IRONMAN 70.3 PUERTO PRINCESA: (From left to right) Alessandra Paulina Castaneda, Mervin Santiago, Mayor Lucilo Bayron of Puerto Princesa, Princess Galura of Sunrise Events, Inc., Maria Claire Adorna, and Fernando Casares. | Photo by Cedez Castro

Big names in the sport of triathlon in the country, such as Alessandra Paulina Castaneda, Fernando Casares, Maria Claire Adorna, and Mervin Santiago, will be competing in the first-ever Ironman 70.3 Puerto Princesa, hoping that their speed and endurance will allow them to win the title for the fastest time in the relay and individual categories.

Rising as favorites among those racing in the individual competitions, Sunrise Events, Inc. presented them at a press conference yesterday to hear their expectations and insights on how they expect to perform.

Princess Galura, organizer and general manager of Sunrise, said these four triathletes will make the IM 70.3’s inaugural race in Puerto Princesa exciting.

Casares, a member of the Philippine Triathlon Team, is hoping to win the P150,000 prize for the male individual category offered by Mayor Lucilo Bayron, despite the fact that he would be competing against a formidable opponent in Santiago. His exemplary performance in the World Triathlon Cup in Miyazaki, Japan, in October gave him a leg up on the competition.

“I checked the start list, obviously, and I can say since I’ve been training lately… everyone there is very strong, especially on their bikes, so… but I feel pretty confident on my run… but still I know there are other triathletes from all over, like kuya Mervin, for example. I will consider also kuya Mervin to be one of my strongest rivals,” he said.

“And then on the swim, I would say from my teammate, ate Lors (Adorna), although she will be on the relay team,” Casares added.

Santiago, who made history by becoming the first Filipino to cross the finish line in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, will compete in the overall individual category in the 30-34 age group during the 1.9-kilometer swim, 90-kilometer bike, and 21-kilometer run race.

He stated that he does not anticipate coming in first place in each and every race, but he anticipates that his “personal best” will shine brightly in the final race on the Ironman calendar.

“Meron pa rin tayong mga… actually, maraming malalakas ngayon–sabi nga ni Fer, kuya na ako, so maraming bata. So, nag-start ako 18-24, ilang age group na yong tinalon ko, now I’m in the 30-34 age category. Siyempre yong mga youngest, yan sila Fer… nakita ko sila mag-training… very supportive ang mga team sponsors nila… tingin ko sila ang mga toughest competitor ko,” Santiago said.

“Siyempre, hindi naman tayo full-time athlete, I’m working 8-10 hours a day, sinisingit ko lang ang training. Masaya na ako kung dumikit ang oras ko,” he added.

Meanwhile, Castaneda, who competed in the IM 70.3 in St. George, Utah, said she has too many tough competitors to name, especially since she began training in 2017.

New female triathletes have emerged, and their pace and stamina have improved over time as a result of their training.

If she is to consider one tough opponent, it is Jackie Cruz, who won first place in the Female 25-29 individual category in the race held in Subic Bay in March this year.

“Honestly, there are too many to mention, but if there’s one name I need to mention it’s my teammate Jackie Cruz who also raced in St. George with me. Our finishing times are really close. I really like how women push each other in the field. It’s a good kind of competition,” she said.

Professional triathlete and swimmer Adorna will not compete in the individual category this year; instead, she will join her all-female team in the swim-bike-run relay.

City gov’t gives prize money
Mayor Bayron announced a prize of Php300,000 that can be split (Php150,000 each) for the male and female racers with the fastest time in the individual category at the press conference on November 11, two days before the competition on November 13.

“I’d like to sweeten the pot. I-sweeten natin ang pot… for the first lady finisher, magbibigay ang city government ng Puerto Princesa ng Php100,000. Para sweeten the pot, sa first male finisher, Php100,000 also. Para alam niyong hindi ito bola, ibibigay ko na ang pera ngayon,” he said.

The prize money was supposed to be Php200,000 for both winners, but Bayron subsequently increased it to Php300,000 regardless of what age-group and from what country the winners will come from.

Galura said this is the first time in all their races in the country that this has happened.

“Nagulat ako kay mayor. Na-feel niya yong excitement kasi na first time talaga nangyari–siyempre, gusto niya masaya lahat. Talagangwala kaming prize money kasi hindi naman ito pro. This is an age-group race, so kapag age-group, wala talagang prize,” she said.

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has been with Palawan News since January 2019. She is its managing editor, overseeing and coordinating day-to-day editorial activities. Her writing interests are politics and governance, health, defense, investigative journalism, civic journalism, and the environment.