ROOKIE triathlete Mohd Zahairen Manan Zulkarnain completed a perfect season in the inaugural TriKidz triathlon event that concluded at the Universiti Malaya Sports Centre swimming pool on Sunday.
In the 13 to 15 years category, the 14-year-old Bandar Penawar Sports School (BPSS) student made a clean sweep in the series when he emerged champion in all three legs.
Although he was still ahead and led from the start to finish in the third and final leg of the series, Zahairen felt other competitors in the section also showed good progress and challenging for position in the race.
On the road: The participants in the 13 to 15 years category
completing the 6,000m cycling course.
“They gave me a good fight in the swimming part at the start of the race. Running was the toughest because I was already exhausted after the first two disciplines (swimming and cycling),” he added.
Zahairen finished the course comprising 300m of swimming, 6,000m cycling and 800m running in 21:15 with more than a minute advantage ahead of his closest challenger Muhammad Faiz Hashim (22:17) while Fatin Natasya Ariffin came in third 23:52.
After taking up triathlon this year, Zahairen’s father Zulkarnain Manan Abdul Manan said his son had the edge against his peers because he has a strong background in swimming.
Podium finish: Yau (centre) emerging as champion in the five to six years section. Joining her are runner-up
Sarah Hana Mohd Shukri (left) and Uvern Chung Jamal in third spot.
“Initially, he joined the rugby programme at the BPSS three years ago. However, he switched to swimming because of the better opportunities to excel. Recently, he also represented the Anak Air Club in the National Inter-Club Swimming Champion-ships.
“So far, he has not won anything major in swimming because it is very competitive. But, he has improved on his personal best times. Freestyle is his favourite stroke,” Zulkarnain added.
In addition, Zahairen’s younger sister Nur Iman Sofea Zulkarnain also showed her promise in the 11 to 12 years category.
En route to victory, the 11-year-old SK Puncak Alam 2 pupil covered the 200m swim, 4,000m cycle and 800m run in 18:38.
Meanwhile, pre-schooler Yau Wen Li also took advantage of her brave start at the pool to bag her first ever victory in the five to six years category.
Perfect finish: Zahairen dominated the 13 to 15 years category.
“It is my first gold medal and had a good time because I enjoy all three events,” said Yau, six.
The recent event drew 150 participants in five age-group categories — five to six years, seven to eight years, nine to 10 years, 11 to 12 years and 13 to 15 years.
On the eve of the race, the children also had the opportunity to pick up valuable pointers in triathlon from three International Triathlon Union (ITU) certified coaches — Ungku Azhar Ungku Mohd Maznan, Stephanie Chok and Gary Choong.
National duathlete Heidilee Mohammad also assisted the trio in the clinic to educate the participants on the four key areas - swimming, transition, cycling and running.
Azhar admitted it was a tough task to attract the children’s attention especially in the seven to eight years and nine to 10 years sections.
“They were a bit playful. But, we had fun dealing with their mischievous character. We are happy with the good turnout as most of them showed up as part of their preparation for the race. It was a good learning curve. Our aim is to encourage them to improve. We had a good season introducing the event to the children.
“Our long term plan is to convince the authorities to include triathlon at the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) and BPSS,” he added.
— Five to Six Years: 1. Yau Wen Li 4:32, 2. Sarah Hana Mohd Shukri 4:45, 3. Uvern Chung Jamal 6:24
— Seven to Eight Years: 1. Ikhlas Ahmad 6:40, 2. Alauddin Abdul Haris 6:41, 3. Zane Ford 6:57
— Nine to 10 Years: 1. Gabriel Tan 10:48, 2. Andrew Ling Zhi-Liang 10:49, 3. Nicholas Soon 10:50
— 11 to 12 Years: 1. Nur Iman Sofea Zulkarnain 18:38, 2. Imtiaq Ahmad 19:24, 3. Nur Adilla Izzati Azharrudin 19:25
— 13 to 15 Years: 1. Mohd Zahairen Manan Zulkarnain 21:15, 2. Muhammad Faiz Hashim 22:17, 3. Fatin Natasya Ariffin 23:52