Alaska IronKids Philippines triathlon started out as a Sunday fun run for kids but in just a short time, it quickly developed into a national sporting event that has nurtured and developed young local triathletes. Triathlon is composed of three disciplines: swimming, biking and running. Now on its fourth year, the event has attracted hundreds of young participants, all wanting to conquer the IronKids course, considered to be the junior counterpart of the prestigious triathlon event, IronMan.
According to coach and race director Ani De Leon-Brown, Alaska IronKids Philippines has become, in recent years, a training ground for the country’s aspiring young triathletes. It is part of the Alaska Sports’ Nutrition. Action. Champion. program, along with Alaska Football and Basketball Camps and the Jr. NBA presented by Alaska. The program hopes to encourage children to play outdoors or get into sports and learn the values of determination, discipline, hardwork and teamwork. “When I was in the national team for triathlon, our main problem was the lack of depth in the talent pool. There were only a few young boys and girls, who wanted to take up the sport seriously and take it to the next level. But now, there are a lot of them because of events like these. I am very proud of the program. Through the years, you could really see the growth.”
Arno Baetz is one of those aspiring young talents. At this year’s Alaska IronKids Philippines Triathlon leg in Mactan Shangri-La in Cebu, Baetz dominated the 13 to 14 year-old boys category. Based in Hong Kong, the 13-year-old flies to the country every now and then to join competitions and to train, hoping to one day fulfill his dream of becoming an IronMan. The Filipino-German can’t thank his parents enough for supporting his dream. “In every race, they are there to cheer me on. Their confidence in me motivates me even more to do better.” According to him, getting into triathlon has changed his lifestyle a lot. “I eat healthier. I don’t sleep late. No more videogames for me,” says Baetz.
Judging from the parents, siblings and friends who came to support the participants in the Cebu leg, Alaska IronKids Philippines has become a family affair. Parents could be seen waving handkerchiefs and shouting words of encouragement. And what is great about the Alaska IronKids, there are no losers. All finishers are given medals as long as they complete the course.
Despite the spirit of fun, the race does honor the hard work and commitment to excellence of young triathletes who set aside time for training to develop their skills. Leading the pack at this year’s Alaska IronKids are Arno Baetz and Shaia Ruth Uy, who ruled the 13 to 14 years old category and Bambam Manglicmot and Lauren Plaza, who finished first in the 11-12 years old category. Others who figured in the top three were Craig Uy and Nathan Nalo, Nicole Eijansantos and Samantha Borlain, who were second and third finishers in the 11 to12 years old boys and girls respectively. Justin Chiongbian and Brent Valelo, on the other hand, were second and third placers in the 13 to 14 years old boys while Alexandra Leather and Margarita Delos Reyes trailed after first placer Shaia Uy in the 13 to 14 years old girls category.
This year, more than 200 kids signed up for the Cebu leg. While the participants of the 13 to 14 years old and 11-12 years old categories were able to race, the races for the two other age categories: 9 to 10 years old and 7 to 8 years old were canceled due to bad weather. For the Alaska IronKids organizers, safety of the participants comes first.
Caroline Borlain, mother of Tara, this year’s defending champion in the 9 to 10 years old girls category, agreed with the decision. “We wanted Tara to race because she prepared for this and trained hard but Tara herself said to us, ‘It’s God’s will.’ And she’s right. The money we spent for the trip is nothing compared to the anxiety it will cost us if we let her race in that kind of weather. The safety of the children should be top priority.”
All is not lost, according to Borlain, because there is still another triathlon event coming up in October. Her daughters Tara and Samantha are already looking forward to the race.
The triathlon is slated on October 20 and will be held at the Palms Country Club, Alabang. Children or parents who want to know more about the clinics or register for the triathlon race should check out the Alaska IronKids Philippines website at www.ironkidsphil.com . For more information, visit www.alaskamilk.com.ph and @ALASKAsportshub on twitter.