“There’s someone waiting for me at the end.” - A triathlete’s thoughts during a 70.3 Ironman

1,475 participants took part in the 2022 Desaru Coast 70.3 Ironman, with an overwhelming show of love by friends and family driving them to the finish line

Elaine Young crosses the finish line as the first female. PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


Desaru, Malaysia, 24th July 2022 - Despite the pristine beaches that line Desaru coast, the town in Bandar Penawar was anything but relaxing for 1,475 70.3 Ironman participants.


Blood, sweat and tears were shed as they put their bodies on the line to complete the race. Having to dig deep to find a means to push themselves to the finish line, a common theme was the love waiting for them at the end.


Canadian-born Elaine Young was met by her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Haley cradled in her husband’s arms at the finish line. After lifting the banner in the air as the first female to cross the finishing line, she was made to sit on the wheelchair to recover but no form of fatigue could stop her from holding her beloved daughter.


“It was everything. It was amazing to have her see me cross the line. Having her there makes the race so much more amazing,” she said with the love she had for her daughter radiating as she held back tears.


Based in Singapore, Young trains with Elevate Performance Coaching and had already qualified for the World Championships in Kona through her race in Langkawi in 2019. “This was definitely a warmup race for my big race this year in October. It was nice to come here and experience racing again after a 3-year hiatus.”


More photos from the match available in SportPlus.sg's photo gallery here.

Elaine Young is greeted by a marshal waiting to escort her as she begins her run in poll position. PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


At every corner in and around the transition area, loved ones lined the routes with signs and bells, their voices hoarse as they rallied the participants on.


Sheng Thong Yin, part of the Singapore Women’s Triathlon Club came in first in the 50-54 age group, earning a spot in the Finland World Championships.

Little did she know, her son had taken the 8.30am ferry from Singapore to surprise her as she came around the bend of the roundabout where the run began.


“He was waving and I was like ‘Ryan! My god, you’re here!’ I almost teared up. When he was young, I always said that every race I raced for him.”

Sheng Thong Yin with her son, who surprised her with a poster he made on behalf of the rest of the family. PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


It was no different for some of the Singaporean participants who completed the grueling race that consisted of a 1.9km swim, a 90km bike route and a 21.1km run.


Triathlete Cheryl Tay, just completing her bike ride, where her lower back seized up. In the face of agony, she thought of Grace Huang, her wife who was supporting her at a triathlon for the first time.


“When you dig deep and question your why, you think about who is cheering for you,” she kept her tears from falling before going on to say, “I didn’t want to make her stand in the sun for too long because she has a stiff neck but it makes me feel special because there’s someone waiting for me at the end. I just want to get back to her as soon as I can.”

Cheryl Tay with her wife, Grace Huang as they celebrate after the race. PHOTO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


In the second transition, Cheryl bumped into a familiar face, Neyton Tan. The Desaru Coast 70.3 Ironman was the first triathlon Neyton took part in since the Covid Pandemic but had prepared by racing in the L’etape Desaru. Managing his expectations, he only hoped to finish with a personal best.


Known for racing in a multitude of Spiderman suits at running events in Singapore, he decided to leave his superpowers at home this time. “The suit is in the laundry. Spiderman does have to save the world sometimes but not every day! I’ll be racing as Neyton Tan this time round,” and race as Neyton Tan he did. He achieved his goal by clocking in a personal best at 5:41:14.


“If I have to summarize it in one word, it’s brutal,” he recalled. “The rain was a blessing. Although I cramped up in the first kilometer of the run, it managed to ease off and I finished within my expected time.”

Full pre-race interview with Neyton Tan. VIDEO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


Team Singapore duathlete, Yong Man Yun, shared the same sentiments regarding the weather. The 34-year-old never thought she would ever check going for a 70.3 Ironman off her books.


“When I was collecting the race pack yesterday, it felt very surreal,” she shared. She was most afraid of the open water swim leg, as running and cycling were her forte. Unfortunately, the race didn’t go quite as planned as ironically, she swam well but crashed 2km into the bike leg.

“I spent 35 minutes getting attention from medics and bike mechanic. With that, I knew it was all about completing the race, not results.”


Man Yun bled profusely from her knee and elbows but powered by adrenaline, she completed the remaining 82km and the half marathon run to the finish line before having to get further medical attention. “I think the scariest part was that I pictured myself crying back in the hotel room because of DNF (did not finish).”

Full pre-race interview with Yong Man Yun. VIDEO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


Another half Ironman debutant was Ryan Wong, who was one of the youngest participants at only 18 years of age. The third-year engineering student finished 4th in his age group after a little over six hours of racing in his first ever half Ironman.


“I think I used too much energy on the bike. I had a cramp after the first km of running so I decided to walk the first 2km. After that, I managed to run the rest even though my leg was numb, I couldn’t feel my legs.” Before the race, the nerves were evident, but a smile seemed to be permanently etched on his face after.

Ryan Wong with his mother after completing his first 70.3 Ironman. VIDEO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


Despite his busy schedule of a final year polytechnic student, Ryan found time to join his father on his cycling groups during training. Before becoming a triathlete, the youngster wasn’t keen on exercise, but it was none other than his father, an Ironman himself, who introduced him to the world of endurance sports.


“Out of nowhere he just signed me up for these events like MetaSprint and after a while I liked it.”

Full pre-race interview with Yong Man Yun. VIDEO: HANA BASIR, SPORTPLUS.SG


There were plenty of other participants who also did Singapore proud. Benjamin Khoo was the first Singaporean and 5th overall participant to cross the finish line.


Claudia Lim joined the significant number of Singaporeans going to the Finland World Championships in the roll down after finishing second in her age group. Jinella Chua, a sports massage therapist, was in the top 10 of the 45-49 age group.


The mixture of jubilation, pain and pure relief in every finisher is a clear sign of how annihilated a triathlete’s body can get during a race. What’s clearer is why they put their bodies through such pain.


The huge amount of passion emitting from each participant engulfed the coastal town and was felt by everyone part of the event and the most important driving force was the support from loved ones.

Full post race interviews with Elaine Young, Cheryl Tay, Neyton Tan and Ryan Wong.

VIDEO: HANA BASIR AND HANIDA HUSSEIN, SPORTPLUS.SG


More photos from the Desaru Coast 70.3 IRONMAN in SportPlus.sg's photo gallery here.


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