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In Review: IRONMAN Malaysia 2014

58 countries, 1397 athletes, 3.9km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run, testosterone, adrenaline, blood, sweat, tears, and last but definitely not the least, vomit.

WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

The Ironman triathlon, aka one of the most grueling one-day sporting events in the world, took place in Langkawi Malaysia on September 27th, 2014. Dating back to 1977, the Ironman triathlons take place all over the world and this year, it was aesthetically located within a cluster of tropical islands in a quaint beach town.

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The largest international triathlon hosted by Malaysia and the island of Langkawi, TOJ editors Madhuri Chowdhury and Himraj Soin checked it out to see what all the fuss was about. Covering the race from start to finish was nothing short of overwhelmingly humbling, but also a bit of a herculean task, inspiring the young journalists to perhaps compete (in the distant future) in what they thought to be a self-destructive, masochistic, and inexplicably impressive race.

The days leading up to Ironman Malaysia included practice swims, briefings, transition tours, and a whole lot of merchandise shopping. The town was painted with colorfully decked out athletes biking, running, swimming, and eating what seemed to be all the carbohydrates ever produced in the little island. With an amalgamated atmosphere of gaiety, apprehension, nerves, and pure adrenaline-induced excitement, not to mention intervals of rain showers and strong sunshine, the weekend was off to a promising start. The Ironman race, we found, wasn’t just an event, it was a lifestyle, and those who choose to be a part of it seldom turned back. With a cult following of professional and amateur athletes, with many months and years of training, to be a part of this wasn’t just hardcore, it was much more than that. It was a prestigious honor to participate in the event, to be a part of this brand, and most of all, to finish and achieve a whole different level of self-fulfillment and betterment.

Malaysia was the largest country to be represented with 247 athletes with Singapore a close second, with 202 athletes. Japan was the third largest with 180 athletes and international athletes made up 83% of the list. The youngest athlete was 20 years old and the oldest was 77 years old. Ironman Malaysia was off to a promising, diverse, adrenaline-filled start.
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On Race Day we headed to the yacht club in darkness. The usually vibrant streets of Langkawi were ominously cordoned off, guarded by volunteers with walkie -talkies. We were hustled into two boats with other journalists in shiny vests and sailed towards the swim start point as the sun rose. The pro athlete’s were in the water first, shortly followed by another wave of potential Ironman-finishers. The rolling start ensured a smooth flow of athletes, their bare arms flying in 30C water.

As the athletes pushed to swim 3.9km, the media boats rushed to the shore to wait for the first swimmers to reach the transition point where they had to grab a bike and start their 180km journey speeding through sleepy island roads. The two-loop bike course took the athletes through several local villages (‘Kampungs’), giving them a glimpse of the colorful local sights.

IM_3The run course covered 42.2km of tropical flat road, passing local night markets and botanical gardens. Patrick Nillson was the first male to finish, making this his maiden Ironman win as well as the biggest win of his career. The Swedish pro had trouble with his bike chain that got stuck on the second lap, but managed to regain his position. At 08:41:53, he stumbled into the finish line tape and collapsed onto the ground. “That was a really tough day especially the last 10k. The 1st two laps I kept reminding myself to stay cool and knew I had the lead and the guys would have to run really good to catch me. But those two laps. Those were really REALLY hard”, Nillson said.

Fredrick Croneberg from Sweden came in second at 8:58:45. Malaysia’s first athlete to cross the line was Mohd Amran Ghani. Running his first Ironman ever, the firefighter ranked 20 overall, with a time of 10:14:54.

If there was any uncertainty over who would win the race overall, the women’s race was a shoe in for German pro athlete Diana Riesler who won her maiden IRONMAN race, coming in fifth overall.

This year in Langkawi, it seemed like those who could stand the heat, as well as beat it, reaped the rewards at the finish line. IRONMAN’s return to the tropical islands of Langkawi saw the already popular tourist destination swell with people, passion and drama like never before. The qualified athletes will head to Kona, Hawaii, next year, under the watchful eyes of this steadily growing triathlon cult following.

Text and Images © Himraj Soin and Madhuri Chowdhury

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The 2018 Whitewater Awards: Nouria Newman and Benny Marr take the spoils.

The Whitewater Awards is a gathering of the world’s best kayakers to show off the biggest and best things that have happened in the sport over the past year.

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WRITTEN BY

Brooke Hess

 To be considered for an award, athletes, photographers, and filmmakers submit media taken over the past year that they believe showcases the best progression in the sport.  

There are sixteen different categories for submission, including separate male and female categories within the “Best of” kayaking categories. Categories include Photographer of the Year, Film of the Year, Expedition of the Year, Best Trick, Best Line, River Stewardship, Grom of the Year, Rider of the Year, along with several others.  Awards are decided upon by a voting process done by the Association of Whitewater Professionals.

This year’s Whitewater Awards was held in the Egyptian Theater in downtown Boise, Idaho. It was hosted on June 14th, the same weekend as the North Fork Championships, which takes place on the North Fork of the Payette River just outside of Boise.  The North Fork Championship is regarded as one of the hardest kayaking races in the world.

The race takes place on Jacob’s Ladder rapid, which is a rapid so difficult and consequential that most kayakers feel accomplished simply by surviving the rapid, much less racing the rapid. Nouria Newman, a 3-time NFC racer and winner of this year’s Whitewater Awards Female Rider of the Year describes it well,

“The NFC is the hardest race in whitewater kayaking. [Jacob’s Ladder] is a scary, consequential rapid. Running it is challenging, and it only gets harder to race it and make the gates.”

In order to minimize the risk involved in the race, event organizers have developed a strict qualification process for racers. 30 racers will qualify to race Jacob’s Ladder. Ten of them are pre-qualified from placing top ten at the event the year before. Those ten then read numerous athlete applications and vote on the next ten racers who will join them.  The last ten racers are decided through a qualification race on S-Turn rapid, another one of the North Fork’s infamous class V rapids.

Every year on this same weekend in June, kayakers, photographers, and filmmakers from around the world flock to Idaho to celebrate quality whitewater, progression of the sport, and the community that surrounds it. Both the North Fork Championship and the Whitewater Awards had great turnouts of athletes and spectators this year.

John Webster

The finalists of each category in the Whitewater Awards were presented in film format at the Egyptian Theater for the entire audience to view, with the winner being announced live. Winners were presented with an award and expected to give a short speech at the event. The big winners of the night were Nouria Newman and Benny Marr, who were awarded with Line of the Year and Rider of the Year in the female and male categories. Nouria says that voting for the “best” in each category is a challenging process, “…voting is always tricky, (look at both French and U.S. presidents, not too sure if they are really the best available option). And it is also very hard to compare lines and rapids. What’s bigger? What’s harder? I got voted Best Line of the Year with a good line down Parque Jurassic, a long technical rapid, but Rata’s line down Graceland, which is a huge slide, was equally as good, if not better.”

No matter how tricky the voting process can be, Nouria agrees that the Whitewater Awards plays a large role in the progression of the sport, “I think it’s super cool to see what people can do in their kayak, how they push the limit of the sport and how they open new possibilities.”

For more information about the Whitewater Awards, you can visit whitewaterawards.com, you can also follow them on Facebook and on Instagram.

You can follow Nouria on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

You can follow Benny on Facebook and Instagram.

Cover photo courtesy of Ari Walker

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