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The Challenge Laguna Phuket Tri-Fest kicked off on Saturday in Phuket, Thailand with a press conference introducing a number of top professional athletes slated to compete in both the 20th Laguna Phuket Triathlon (LPT) on Nov. 24 and the inaugural Challenge Laguna Phuket on Dec. 1. To honor the athletes, a baby elephant–a male named Candy–paid a special visit to the media marquis, showcasing the iconic experience of racing in Thailand. Laguna Phuket, a 1,000-acre integrated resort comprised of seven luxury hotel and villa properties, plays host to both races, providing a stunning beachfront backdrop for athletes. And although the weather in Phuket has been quite blustery and rain-drenched for the past few days, the athletes in attendance were not at all deterred in their excitement to race in this unique destination.
Here’s what the pros had to say in advance of the back-to-back weekend action:
Radka Vodickova (CZE)
[On her preparedness to race as the three-time defending champion of LPT]
“Like a child before Christmas, I feel the same here. I really love it here. From today, my Christmas starts!”
Ruedi Wild (SUI)
[On how he feels as the men’s defending champion]
“I also feel happy to be back, and being a defending champion is always a nice thing. I have had a little bad luck the last few days–I had a flat on my scooter, a crash going over a speed bump and a broken chain–but now with all the support I’ve received from everyone here everything is working and I feel my bad luck has passed. So I’m excited and ready.”
Melissa Hauschildt (AUS)
[On racing her first LPT, while being the two-time defending champion of the half-distance, formerly the Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship]
“This will be my fourth time doing the half here. It’s my most favorite race of the year, so I couldn’t turn down the invite to spend an extra week here and do both.”
Chris McCormack (AUS)
[On his affiliation as a Challenge Family ambassador]
“Challenge is all about supporting the core roots of triathlon. The great thing about this race is that the sport is 35 or 36 year old, and the Laguna Phuket Triathlon is 20. People that come here to race come for the entire experience–I mean the after party is like nothing else! It’s the people, the environment–it’s a brilliant event and I hope to keep coming back for many more years and to help spread the experience to the new Laguna Lang Co race in Vietnam.”
Belinda Granger (AUS)
[On her 11th anniversary racing LPT]
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that I was originally an age-group athlete. And when you sign up as an age group athlete it’s all about the experience you’re going to get. This is one of those races I continually put in my calendar because it’s just amazing here. I mean when you look at a race that has had the same naming sponsors for 20 years [Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways International], that says a lot! Once I arrive here I just can’t get the smile off my face. And I know we can’t control the weather, but that’s the way it should be. It’s a tough race, it’s an adventure and it’s the way triathlon used to be. That’s why we love it!”
Also joining the pro field for the Challenge Laguna Phuket race will be 2012 Ironman world champion Pete Jacobs (AUS). All told, 1020 individual athletes and 62 relay teams will tackle the LPT’s 1.8-kilometer swim, 55-kilometer bike and 12-kilometer run, a record number of competitors representing 43 nationalities. More than 600 athletes from 40 countries will take on the longer Challenge Laguna Phuket race–a 1.9-kilometer swim, 90-kilometer bike and 21-kilometer run.
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