LAPU-LAPU CITY –Filipino triathletes August Benedicto and Ines Santiago were hailed king and queen of the Megaworld IRONMAN 70.3 Philippines Sunday, Aug. 7, here at Mactan Newtown in Cebu.
Benedicto of Tarlac and Santiago of Negros Occidental, both returning to competition in Cebu, bested around 2,000 triathletes from 46 nations and braved the mix 1.9-kilometer swim, 90km bike, 21km run race course to bring the IRONMAN 70.3 titles back to the Philippines.
With the sunlight slightly showing itself from the gloomy clouds and the wind current breezing through just fine, both Filipino champions experienced a fair share of fun and challenges along the way with the 38-year-old Benedicto only returning to the IRONMAN scene since competing in the 2019 edition of the IRONMAN 70.3 also here in Cebu and Davao.
Benedicto, though struggling a bit in swimming and taking up quite some time at the transition area, clocked four hours, 29 minutes, and 16 seconds to finish the race while Santiago overcame pain and discomfort due to menstruation to register five hours, 23 minutes, and 14 seconds.
By taking the overall titles in men’s and women’s division, Benedicto and Santiago also ruled their respective age categories in M35-39 and F40-44 of the race presented by AIA Vitality and organized by The IRONMAN Group/Sunrise Event, Inc.
Though he stayed inactive while spending family time in Germany, the lack of competitions could not stop Benedicto from bringing home the trophy this time.
Thanks to his eight-month stop in Italy, meeting a group of Filipino and Italian cyclists throughout his stay, the Tarlac native triathlete remained in tip-top shape and showed steely nerves when he returned to IRONMAN contest, besting eventual runners-up Australian Mark Jansen (4:36:05) and compatriot John Dedeus Alcala (4:37:54).
The active and cheerful crowd at Mactan Newtown also added extra motivation for Benedicto to finish the race and go for the gold as he broke free from the last 7km of the bike’s last loop, overtaking at least 15 participants who got past him earlier in swimming.
Call it lady luck of some sort but Benedicto personified August, interestingly sharing the same name, as a victorious month.
“I’m so happy. They love the [sport of] triathlon here,” said Benedicto, who was the first Filipino triathlete to become a finisher, ranking eighth in men’s overall, in the inaugural IRONMAN Philippines in Subic, Zambales.
“Makulimlim ngayon ngayon pero napakainit ng pagsalubong ng mga Cebuano sa IRONMAN. Always thankful for their cheers. I always get energy from the crowd,” added the former duathlon national team member, thanking The IRONMAN Group/Sunrise Events, Inc. general manager Princess Galura and IRONMAN Asia managing director Jeff Edwards, for allowing him to borrow a bike and a pair of shoes here as he left his own cycling gears in Germany.
Santiago, 40, for her part, displayed immense “girl power” despite experiencing some inconvenience when she started to bleed while traversing the run course.
But that did not hinder Santiago, who was also the queen of 2022 IRONMAN Subic Bay Philippines overall and F40-44, from bagging the women’s IRONMAN 70.3 crown.
Perhaps the beautiful seaside as backdrop helped her calm down and stayed focused on the road as she stepped on the pedal along the 8.9km-long Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX), the longest bridge in the country.
“The bike course was very interesting since it’s a new bridge. The roads are very, very nice. The scenery was really great and thankfully the wind was also cooperative,” said Santiago, who is a part-time instructor at the University of Asia and the Pacific and a manufacturing business owner in Negros Occidental.
“So all in all it was a really nice course,” added Santiago, who outclassed fellow Filipinas Leyann Ramo (5:32:00) and Cianyl Jam Gonzales (5:36:09) in the overall.
Other winners were AJ Rejas (F18-24, 6:09:04), Gonzalez (F25-29, 5:36:09), Ramo (F30-34, 5;32:00), Mitch Otsuru-Park (F35-39, 6:33:46), Nerissa Stafford (F45-49, 6:09:25), Ma. Evangeline Endaya (F50-54, 6:25:00) and Celma Hitalia (F55-59, 6:00:18); Kenneth Bonda (M18-24, 4:55:50), Alcala (M25-29, 4:37:54), Leonard Rondina (M30-34, 4:43:09), Petr Lukosz (M40-44, 4:43:39), Jansen (M45-49, 4:36:05), Michael Rudolph (M50-54, 5:10:00), Herve Potus (M55-59, 6:00:50) and Henry Clark (M60-64, 5:36:49), Martin Buchholz (M65-69, 6:57:49), Hans Bock (M70-74, 7:59:36).
Team Spectrum Nephro Mayo won the overall championship in team relay with a time of 4:11:40, besting Team Go4less1 (4:14:02), and Team Spectrum Mayo Kidney Care (4:18:07).