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Professional athletes and international media gathered on Friday afternoon in advance of the second annual Laguna Lang Co Triathlon in central Vietnam for a pre-race press conference and elaborate media lunch hosted at the Banyan Tree’s signature Saffron restaurant. While the headliner in Saturday’s race action will be the triathlon (1.8-km swim, 62-km bike and 12-km run), a duathlon (6-km run, 62-km bike and 12-km run) will run concurrently with the main event and a 62-km cycling race will take place later in the afternoon. Although only in its second year, the 2014 event has attracted 200 competitors from 25 countries, ranging in age from 16-69 years old. That figure may seem small compared to more established international events, however the race is fast becoming a highlight on the Vietnamese sports calendar. In fact, the Laguna Lang Co Triathlon is the first international sporting event to take place in Hue province and the largest triathlon in all of Vietnam. And considering the history of the race’s sister event–the legendary Laguna Phuket Triathlon in Thailand, which saw similar numbers in its first few years and has, over the course of two decades, developed into one of the most iconic and wildly popular triathlon events worldwide–race organizers are optimistic for the future of the Laguna Lang Co Triathlon and the growth of Vietnamese multi-sport. That spirit of optimism pervaded the press conference and the attitudes of the professional field of athletes present, all eager to test themselves on a day when temperatures are expected to reach above 90 degrees, combined with typical tropical humidity.
Here’s what a few of the professionals had to say in advance of the race:
Belinda Granger (AUS)
[On the appeal of racing in Vietnam.]
For one, Vietnam is really a fairly short trip from Australia. And while the climate and conditions are quite similar to home, the culture is entirely different. Vietnam is so steeped in history and culture, and while the country is really developing its tourism and making every effort to welcome visitors, it is still also relatively untouched. Everyone I’ve spoken to and told that I was coming here to race–both my sporting friends and my not so sporty friends–have had the same response; this is a place they all want to travel. Vietnam just has that appeal and that intrigue. And at this point in my career, this is what it’s all about–experiencing things I would never be able to otherwise.
Massimo Cigana (ITA)
[On preparing to defend his 2013 title.]
Even for me, it’s not so difficult to travel 24 hours from Italy when it is coming to paradise like this at Laguna Lang Co! But the field is more competitive this year, so we will see what happens. I am happy to try to defend.
[When asked what he thinks of the run course, which has been altered since last year to include an even mix of asphalt and groomed golf course grass.]
When I run I don’t think too much. I just try to go as fast as possible!
Chris McCormack (AUS)
[On how he views the expansion of the sport into Vietnam.]
Like Belinda said, coming to new venues is what keeps me motivated in the sport now. You look for events you want to go to as opposed to events you have to go to. After racing here last year I stayed for 10 days just to explore the region–it’s an amazing place! And it’s great to be at the grassroots level of growth in the sport in a country like this.
Radka Vodickova (CZE)
[In response to a comment by an obviously enamored member of the local media, who said that he believed returning women’s champion Vodickova looked even more beautiful than last year, and he wondered what she had done to enhance her beauty.]
I think I look the same–I just bought new t-shirt!