Malaysians conquer Ironman world challenge

The Malaysian team at the 2023 men’s VinFast Ironman World Championship in Nice, France. — Photos Buletin Mutiara

TWO Penangites did the country proud when they earned medals as finishers of the gruelling 226.8km men’s VinFast Ironman World Championship in Nice, France.

Lee Wei Chern, 52, and Felix Tan Kok Peng, 56, went with six other Malaysians.

They joined over 2,200 top-notch athletes from 93 countries to participate in the event.

They had to finish a 3.8km swim at sea, 180.2km hinterland bike ride and finally the 42.2km run.

In an interview with Buletin Mutiara, Lee said that to qualify for the Ironman World Championship, participants had to have competed in an Ironman race in the last 12 months.

“Ironman races happen weekly across the world, and each race usually has specific slots dedicated for various age groups, paving a way for qualification at the world championship.

“When we secured slots, we were called up to join the world championship,” Lee said.

He described the 180.2km cycling journey as “equivalent to driving from Penang to Ipoh with elevations of Cameron Highlands, Genting Highlands and Fraser’s Hill combined”.

Lee (left) and Tan with their medals at the men’s world championship in Nice.Lee (left) and Tan with their medals at the men’s world championship in Nice.

He has now participated in three full Ironman races and two half-distance races.

Meanwhile, Tan said he was not at his best at this year’s Ironman race as he was offered a slot only in May, which gave him limited time to train to reach peak form.

“I usually need six months’ training 15 hours a week to be able to give my very best but I was not going to forego this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“The whole idea was to have fun which I did.

“There was no need to prove anything or set a personal best.

“Most importantly, I focused on staying safe throughout the race simply because Lee and I were new to the location.

“We had to cycle at an altitude of 2,400m which was incredible.

“There’s no way you can find such a mountain to race elsewhere, and the view was amazing. But if you fall off the cliff, that’s it, you’re gone.”

Tan has participated in eight Ironman races and 11 half-distance races, in places such as Langkawi in Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan and Spain.

When asked about their strengths, Lee said it was swimming while Tan excelled in cycling.

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