Darkhorse John Alcala scores upset win in Puerto Princesa Ironman 70.3
PUERTO PRINCESA—Darkhorse John Dedeus Alcala stole the thunder from the favorites as he reached out from the shadow of his stronger triathlon teammate to capture the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Puerto Princesa here Sunday.
Alcala, a 28-year-old Dipolog City native recruited by the Lanao Norte-based Tri-SND team, battled from as far behind as eighth place going into the run leg of the swim-bike-run event held for the first time in the city.
He clocked four hours, 32 minutes and 21 seconds to pocket the P150,000 prize money put up by the city government.
An ecstatic Alcala collapsed to the platform as he crossed the finish line. As medics rushed to him, he turned around and flashed a big smile. He was helped to his feet by the medics as he received his medal.
Alcala finished some five minutes ahead of age-grouper Mervin Santiago of Team Sante Barley, who surprised himself with a swift run in the final 10 kilometers.
Alcala’s teammate, Jailani Lamama, came in third, 7:25 behind the winner.
Two of the favorites, Southeast Asian Games gold medalist Fernando Casares and Subic Ironman winner Satar Salem, faded in the heat in the final stages of the run and could finish only fifth and 17th overall, respectively.
The women’s field was dominated by Singapore’s Choo Ling Er, who took the P150,000 women’s top prize with a time of 4:57:47. The Philippines’ Leyanne Ramo came in second ahead of Mieko Carey of Guam by one minute. The three top finishers won their respective age groups
The 70.3 event, also called a half Ironman, is a 1.9-km swim, 90-km bike and a 21-km run held in succession.
Casares was first out of the water off the Puerto Princesa Baywalk and held the lead from the chasing Salem up to the halfway mark of the rolling bike leg. Once Salem, the heavy favorite, seized the lead, it didn’t look like he was going to give it up. He built a big lead into the run leg and was headed for a runway victory going in the final 10 kilometers of the run.
But Alcala slowly picked his way through the field and the two teammates looked headed for a
1-2 finish until the heat and humidity took their toll of Salem, who suddenly pulled up with cramps.
The struggling Salem slowed to a walk when Alcala passed him with four kilometers to go.
Salem tapped his teammate and told his teammate to “go for it.” Salem was hobbling when he struggled to the finish line in 17″ place, almost 24 minutes behind his teammate.
Team Tri-SND is a star-studded triathlon team based in Sultan Naga Dimaporo (SND) town in Lanao del Norte. It has been training under national coach Ani de Leon.
Santiago, the country’s top age grouper, banked on his experience steeled by years of racing the Ironman and half-ironman distances. He caught Casares with three kilometers to go and held on to second position up to the finish.
“It was hot out there,” said Casares, who is racing his first 70.3 distance after campaigning in the Philippine team in the shorter standard Olympic distance.
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