In the four years that the Cobra Ironman 70.3 competition has been staged here in the Philippines, there have been two incidents of death among the participants.
The first fatality was Miguel Vasquez, a businessman who suffered a heart attack during the swim portion of the 2010 Ironman held in Camarines Sur.
Vasquez was in his 50s, but according to a colleague who covers the yearly event, he was in good physical condition.
“He’s a pro and by that I mean he has been competing in Ironman and other triathlon events. Which goes without saying that he follows a regular training and conditioning program,” the young scribe said.
The second fatality was Ramon Igana, a load controller of Cebu Pacific assigned at the Mactan International Airport. The initial report was that Igana fell from his bike during the cycling leg of this year’s Ironman, held in Cebu this weekend, and hit his head on the concrete pavement. He was immediately rushed to the hospital but was dead on arrival.
“That was the initial report. He was autopsied after death and the coroner found that he suffered from acute pulmonary embolism while he was cycling, causing him to lose control of his bike,” my colleague said.
“I don’t know if his life could have been saved had his head not hit the pavement.”
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It was late but I tried to get through to Fred Uytengsu, who owns the exclusive franchise of the Ironman here in the Philippines. Fred, who competes yearly in the full Ironman in Kona, Hawaii, has been the PBA’s Alaska franchise owner for more than two decades and has several championship trophies to show.
I asked Fred why the incidence of death in the Ironman was too great. He never answered.
So I asked two of my colleagues instead who have extensively covered the swim-bike-run sports.
“Remember there are three disciplines involved here and all three are grueling. The demands on the body are great. Not anybody can join. You have to train and condition your body for it. Two kilometers of swimming, 40 kilometers of biking and 21 kilometers of running. And that’s just half an Ironman,” said my colleague who just returned from Cebu.
He said he was surprised to see such a big field of competitors.
“And it was celebrity-studded,” he said, citing several names but I recognized only one: Piolo Pascual.
“Joining the Ironman is the in thing these days. Ang daming sumasali. And almost every competitor drives, pushes himself down to the finish line even if he dies doing it.”
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PBA legend Abet Guidaben, who is now based in New Jersey with his whole family, suffered two strokes within a week last month. The first was on July 20, the second on July 23.
This troubling news was e-mailed to us by Ruffy Ignacio of Seattle, Washington, treasurer of the PBA Legends Foundation USA. Ruffy also attached a letter from Abet’s wife Maridol, who informed the Foundation of her husband’s condition.
“To compound our problems, Abet was found positive for meningitis last July 28. His immune system has gotten weak from the steroids he has been taking over the years for his myasthenia gravis,” wrote Maridol.
“The stroke has immobilized Abet’s arm. He speaks with a slur and he sleeps long hours. The good thing is, he still recognizes us.”
After a battery of various tests, Abet’s heart was found to be in good condition and his neck arteries did not have any blockage.
According to Maridol, the meningitis triggered the strokes.