One age–group athlete I’ve had the good fortune to get to know in Vietnam is Ho Ren Hua. Hua serves as executive director of Banyan Tree Holdings Limited, a business founded by his father and the parent company to the Laguna resorts, well known in the triathlon community for Thailand’s Laguna Phuket Triathlon (LPT). I spoke with 31-year-old Shanghai-based Hua about his own involvement in the sport, and why he’s eager to help share the benefits of triathlon through his company’s resort properties.
Triathlete.com: I’m curious–did you get involved in racing because of LPT?
HRH: No, actually it’s completely not linked to my own start in the sport. LPT started in 1994. I was a young kid then and I knew nothing about triathlon. That was when Mike Pigg won the event. I think the idea was to organize something that was really fun and really adventurous and making use of sport that could be done within the community. Laguna Phuket is such a beautiful place–you’ve got a beautiful beach, a beautiful run course and a beautiful bike course–so they thought why not swim, bike and run? And in the 90’s triathlon in Asia was just growing, so it became the Mecca for racing in Asia. LPT had phenomenal success and has sustained it for 19 years. For myself I only picked up triathlon about four or five years ago. I was working in New York and I signed up for the Ney York City Triathlon. I got killed! I absolutely died. But you know, you remember those moments when you get killed.
Triathlete.com: Was it your idea to bring a new race to your new resort here in Lang Co?
HRH: A lot of the credit goes to the team. The people here and the group that runs Laguna Phuket were instrumental in getting the race here in Lang Co. But that being said, we’ve always been very supportive as a company because philosophically we believe in working with the community. I was talking with Chris Lieto earlier and as he said, we’re all very privileged to come to these races and it’s important to be aware that it’s about more than just the sport. We want to work with the people and the community here. The Laguna Lang Co team has always been very supportive of sport because we run an integrated resort. We have the golf course, we have the beach, we have the hotels and we think that bringing that type of sporting community here is something we can really host. We have a vision of organizing really good events that are very conscious of the community and that will give triathletes and our resort guests a great time. And that’s the reason that athletes come back. Macca did LPT last year, Chris Lieto did LPT last year and the Grangers have been coming for I think nine years in a row. So that’s a very important part of it–the pros do inspire people, particularly in Asia because it’s such a growing sport here. You have a lot of people like myself–athletes in our 20’s and 30’s–that read Triathlete Magazine and are like: Wow, that’s Chris McCormack! That’s Chris Lieto! It’s different when you’re halfway across the world and read triathlete.com and hear about these athletes and races like Kona and Alcatraz. You’re Googling all these things and then these athletes actually come here to race.
Triathlete.com: I think most Americans are probably not aware of how big the sport is in Asia.
HRH: Oh yeah, it’s grown a lot more over the last five to 10 years. I think that’s because of awareness on both sides–both in terms of race organizers and in terms of consumers. So of course in all the major cities like Singapore and Hong Kong it has grown. There are a lot more events and the spirit of sport is growing in general. You have triathlons but also decathlons, aquathlons and all those sorts of things. There’s much more awareness for swim, bike and run.
Triathlete.com: How has your own experience evolved since that first race?
HRH: I’ve done about four 70.3’s. Right now I don’t think I’ll do an Ironman. I love the 70.3 distance; I think it’s a great distance where I can still manage being a full-time executive. I try to do about three or four races a year. Of course as a Banyan Tree team member I love to do LPT and Lang Co to see how we can improve and be better at the sport. It’s a group of like-minded people here. Yeah, you race and train hard, but it’s truly about the adventure of triathlon and the spirit of triathlon. All that is so important to us.
Triathlete.com: Do you have a specific goal for the race this weekend?
HRH: I don’t want to jinx it! But I guess it’s not so much a time goal; I can’t really tell the time because I don’t yet really know the course. But I think it’s just to finish strong and actually have time and energy to enjoy the race. That’s the best goal, I believe, is to finish strong. As an age grouper at the end of the day it’s just about enjoying the race and finishing strong and happy–and then enjoying the after party!