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The official kickoff or Challenge Taiwan took place on Tuesday at Taipei Song Shan Sports Center. Professional athletes were invited to use the facility’s all-weather track and Olympic regulation 50-meter pool for training prior to the early afternoon press conference. At the media event, Challenge Taiwan’s managing director Michael D’hulst proudly welcomed the professional field, international media and local dignitaries, stating that since its inception in 2013, Challenge Taiwan has grown to more than double the number of last year’s participants (over 1500 including individual and relay team competitors), making it the largest triathlon in Asia and also the largest international pro field in this region. At the conference, a new partnership with Make-A-Wish Taiwan and a unique fundraising charity run were announced. The Wish Run will begin at 8:00 p.m. on the evening of the race, starting from the finish line and traversing the final 5-kilometer stretch of the run in order to help encourage the late night marathoners. The pro athletes in attendance at the press conference, most of who have returned to Taiwan for the second year, gave glowing reviews of the inaugural race and expressed their excitement and playful attitudes for Saturday’s competition.
Dylan McNeice (NZL)
[Asked about his impressions of Taiwan.]
It was a big surprise when I flew into Taipei for the first time last year. It’s a beautiful city. And I had the same reaction in Taitung [the race venue on the island’s southeast coast]. I especially love the bike course, with the beauty of the rugged coastline and the mountains. And the hospitality, from the locals to Michael and the race organization, is exceptional, so I’m really looking forward to racing here again.
Belinda Granger (AUS)
[Asked about this being her 50th iron-distance race.]
I never even thought I’d get to this stage, so I don’t really know what to feel! It’s a huge achievement for me, especially since back in the day I said I would never ever do an iron-distance race. I have so many fond memories from being in Taiwan and the race itself last year that I had to choose this one again and make it my 50th. It was just so special. And it’s going to be a huge party on the finish line on Saturday, let me tell you!
Fredrik Croneborg (SWE)
[Asked how he thinks he will recover after finishing fifth at Ironman 70.3 Putrajaya just last weekend.]
Actually I’ve done similar things before, racing a full the week before a half, but now it’s the opposite and I think it’s much better. I actually feel quite OK, and this week I can just be very relaxed and not have to do much training. I think it’s a positive thing.
Petr Vabrousek (CZE)
[On his goal for the race.]
I did the race last year and it was an amazing experience. The only thing I didn’t like was when I ended up fourth, so I definitely hope to get better on Saturday.
Kate Bevilaqua (AUS)
[Also regarding the venue.]
Last year was also my first time here. My favorite part is actually the run. The terrain is so varied and there are people everywhere just cheering and being so friendly.
Guy Crawford (NZL)
[Asked to name his most respected competitor from among his fellow pros.]
[Deep sigh}. Hmm….decisions, decisions. Honestly, everyone up here is on a level playing field in regards to my respect. Everyone has different strengths and also great personalities. I’m just really happy to be racing with them!
[Asked how he and girlfriend Kate Bevilaqua–who often race the same events–plan their season each year.]
Kate typically decides where we’re going to go and where we’re going to race. She wears the pants.
Kate Bevilaqua (AUS)
Yes, typically I decide my schedule and then he picks and chooses what he wants to do from that list. And if there’s ever a time that I’m in front of him in a race, he drops out!
Guy Crawford [NZL]
Chris “Macca” McCormack (AUS)
[Asked about his decision to come to Taiwan. Macca will race the swim portion of a relay in the full distance, along with two Taiwanese athletes–one a cancer survivor and one a member of the local media. Following the swim, he’ll continue to the half distance start line to race as an individual.]
I’ve seen the racecourse and it’s incredible. I’m excited to race, even of I’m not exactly in shape. I’m not sitting up here with the rest of these pro guys! I’m racing for the Make-A-Wish foundation with my amazing team, and I’m really looking forward to just being a part of this event. As the Challenge Family ambassador I can choose from among all 27 events to race, and I picked this one because I wanted to be here.