NEWLY husband-and-wife team Josh Amberger and Ashleigh Gentle secured a fairy-tale finale by winning the IRONMAN 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship (APAC) 2023 champions in the men’s and women’s categories.
It was a day that will long be remembered by the island of Langkawi and Malaysia as the country hosted the maiden IRONMAN 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship with the support of the Malaysian Convention and Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) since IRONMAN first made its mark here some 23 years ago ago.
This year’s edition was even more significant with the return of professional triathletes. About four years since 2012 Olympic silver medalist Javier Gomez broke the IRONMAN Malaysia course record.
On Saturday, it was Amberger who took the spotlight in the men’s category after a majestic performance, completing a 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride and 21km run in 3:50:47 on Saturday under testing conditions.
The Australian led the swim at Danna Langkawi and kept his lead intact for much of the 90-kilometer cycle route through hilly and winding terrain that took participants past Langkawi Falls and the Pantai Kok coast.
The 34-year-old later saw his lead wane as his compatriots Mike Phillips and Kurt Mcdonald swapped positions at the top, before regaining the advantage in the final stretch of the run, heading through Cenang Beach to Pelangi Beach Resort. the finish line to seal victory.
“I started running, but I only took the lead in the last 11 or 12 kilometers. Once I got it, I just wanted to take advantage and seal the deal. It feels amazing to win the IRONMAN 70.3 APAC Championship in Langkawi. I’m very happy to win it,” said the 11-time IRONMAN 70.3 champion, who also won his second IRONMAN 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship.
In this multi-discipline event where women compete on equal terms with men, Amberger’s wife Gentle capped off a great day for her house by taking the champion title in 4:10:17, almost six minutes ahead of her closest competitor.
Gentle achieved her best result on the final leg of the course when she completed the cross-country course in less than 80 minutes.
The two-time Olympian, greeted by her husband with a hug and a kiss, hailed him as the cornerstone of her success.
“The highlight for me was Josh winning. He has helped me a lot in my career and seeing his success makes me happy. We got married last year but have been racing triathlons for over ten years and have shared great experiences together. “To be able to come here and take two titles to one household is pretty cool,” she said.
In addition to the $75,000 (RM354,562) prize pool and bragging rights, the top competitors also competed to qualify for the 2024 VinFast IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in Taupo, New Zealand.
Meanwhile, Teh Kuok Yen and Esther Joy Chen Hong Li did Malaysia proud by finishing as the fastest overall in the IRONMAN 70.3 Langkawi age group.
Kuok Yen clocked 4:32:13 to become the fastest Malaysian, while national triathlete Esther Joy Chen clocked 5:07:39 to become the fastest local athlete.
Jeff Edwards, managing director of IRONMAN Asia, said this year’s edition marked a milestone for the series in the region.
“The strong participation numbers at the IRONMAN 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship and IRONMAN Malaysia continue to demonstrate the value and potential that the island of Langkawi brings to the event. We saw every athlete, both amateur and professional, give their all, and what was even more fascinating was the fact that so many local people were cheering them on at the finish line. We anticipate that the IRONMAN 70.3 Langkawi and IRONMAN MALAYSIA competitions will continue to be the showcase of the Asian region for many years to come,” he said.
CG Lim, regional director of IRONMAN Asia, said the IRONMAN 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship could open up more opportunities for the island community in the future.
“Local communities and authorities remain one of the key pillars of our success and their commitment to ensuring the case ran smoothly was of the highest standard. As a result, we can expect greater participation next year, which will create more economic opportunities for the local community that deserves their efforts,” he said.
While in the IRONMAN 70.3 Langkawi competition, athletes competed over a distance of 1.9 km swimming, 90 km riding and 21.1 km running, the IRONMAN Malaysia participants had to cover 3.8 km swimming, 180 km riding and 42.2 km running, and everyone crossed the famous IRONMAN finish line.
In addition to the 40 qualifying spots for the 2024 VinFast IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, there were also 70 qualifying spots available for the 2024 VinFast IRONMAN World Championship.
This includes 20 qualifying places for male triathletes at the World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, and female athletes will receive 50 qualifying places for their world competition in Nice, France.
As CG mentioned, the local community contributed greatly to the success of this event through the involvement of almost 2,000 volunteers.
Langkawi residents got involved in every way they could, from much-needed assistance at aid stations along the bike route to turning on vehicle headlights as the terrain made its way along the Langkawi International Airport.
The island of Langkawi continues to attract millions of tourists each year and the same was true for the IRONMAN events as participants brought their friends and families to enjoy the beautiful beaches, sumptuous delicacies and vibrant nightlife.
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