KOTA KINABALU: Wearing only a pair of RM8 shoes locally known as adidas kampung, a rubber tapper broke an eight-year Malaysian jinx by grabbing the women's title at the 25th Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon.
Danny Kuilin Gongot outpaced New Zealander Anna Frost and American Brandy Erholtz, who came in second and third respectively, to bag the US$4,500 (RM14,000) prize and the gold medal in the women's category of the annual event at this World Heritage Site, near here, yesterday.
It was the fourth title for the 44-year-old Sabahan from Kampung Nadau, at the foothills of the majestic mountain in Kinabalu Park in Kundasang, about 75km from here, after her last wins in 2003, 1998 and 1997.
No Malaysian woman had won the race since 2003.
Danny clocked a time of 3:41:29 to beat 101 women climbers, who raced 21km up and down the 4,095m-high peak, the nation's highest.
Interviewed after she completed the event, Danny said she was dedicating the win to her parents, who never stopped encouraging and supporting her.
“They are not in good health now, so this win is for them,” she said, thanking the heavens for her victory.
“I never thought I could win against many younger and fitter runners,” added Danny, who trained for just two weeks running three times up the mountain in preparation for the competition that was billed “the world's toughest mountain race”.
“All the way up and down, I didn't think of winning but just to finish the race.
“When I found out I had won, I felt like I was in the clouds,” she said.
Her victory brought cheers and pride from her home state, with state Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun texting his personal congratulatory message to her.
Adding to the joy, Danny's cousin Ysuf Sumbad, 40, emerged tops in the Men's Veteran's section.
He beat fellow Sabahans Madamin Ghun and favourite Guianus Salagan, who was the winner in the category last year.
The Men's Open race, the highlight of the competition that features the best mountain runners in the world, begins today.
The spotlight will be on Italian Marco de Gasperi, who would be defending his title, former two-time winner Killian Jornet Burgada of Spain, Nepalese Sudip Kulung and local Safrey Sumping.
Meanwhile, Masidi announced this would be the last edition of the popular world event in its present format.
The race will be re-branded from next year as the Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon: Adventure Series.
It is set to take a new 23km route, requiring runners to race from Kinabalu Park up the mountain until the Layang-Layang Hut. They will then race down to the Mesilau trail before descending to Kundasang town at the foothills of the mountain.