‘Tough’ route a hit-A A +A
Monday, August 6, 2012
A TOUGH course that they had to conquer in extreme heat and humidity challenged participants of the Ironman 70.3 from Mactan to Talisay City on Sunday.
Both pro and age group competitors later said the large crowd that cheered them on was one of the best things about the race.
For runners and triathletes in the Cebuano community, however, the death of relay participant Ramon Igaña Jr., 45, tainted what was otherwise a successful hosting of the event.
An autopsy has yet to confirm the cause of death. Igaña, according to a witness, fell from his bike and hit his head on the gutter.
The organizers, Sunrise Events, said they were still sorting things out and will release an official statement soon.
Post-race assessments by some of the pros and the “race wrap” on ironman.com commended organizers and local residents for “Tour de France” crowds and a challenging course.
Before Igaña’s accident, Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia declared the event a huge success.
“This is the biggest international event Cebu has hosted. It is the most well-attended and it is a source of great pride,” said Garcia. “Because of this, organizers will now be considering Cebu every time they plan on hosting an event.”
She said an organizer of another international event has approached her to discuss a possible hosting in February.
“We have shown how capable we are in hosting these events. We are very accessible to both local and foreign participants because of our international airport. We have hotels that can accommodate a huge crowd, and of course we have warm people,” she added.
She thanked the local governments of Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Cebu, and Talisay, as well as the Department of Public Works and Highways, for “pulling all the stops to make this a success.”
Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza thanked the motorists for their patience, referring to bumper-to-bumper traffic on the lone lane to Mactan (one side of the Marcelo Fernan Bridge) from 5 a.m. to noon Sunday.
She said she can now confidently say that Lapu-Lapu City has “arrived in terms of sports tourism.”
“No question, there were some inconveniences brought about by the road closure. But such was unavoidable if only to make sure that the race will run without a major hitch…I am thankful to the Oponganons for making a sacrifice, for being patient and understanding,” she said in a press statement.
There was no official comment on the Cebuano airline supervisor’s fatal accident, but the triathlon community quickly expressed their sympathy.
Like some bad omen, death seems to keep following the inaugural stagings of the Ironman 70.3.
Race marshal Mark Sala recalled seeing Igaña swerving on the South Road Properties. “I followed him because he looked tired and he was swerving a lot,” said Sala.
The next thing Sala saw was Igaña falling from his bike and hitting the pavement.
“When I reached him, his head was on the gutter and he was breathing deeply. When the medics came, they immediately administered CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation),” said Sala.
Igaña competed in the relay event under Team TTB Extreme along with his wife, Dr. Humility Igaña, who was supposed to run the half-marathon, the last leg of the event. She was waiting at the transition point in Mactan for her husband, but was surprised when only the bike was brought in.
According to a source, Igaña was dead after arriving at Chong Hua Hospital and was being autopsied as of press time.
In 2009, during the first hosting of the Ironman in Camarines Sur, someone also died by drowning.
Officials of the Talisay City Rescue and Emergency Assistance Team (Treat) confirmed that one of the cyclists accidentally hit his head on the gutter in Barangay Cansojong.
BJ Odilao, Treat senior rescuer, told Sun.Star Cebu they were initially given a different name (not Igaña’s) when they told the organizers the man’s race number. (A check later, however, showed the number given was, indeed, Igaña’s.)
Odilao said the accident happened around 9:30 a.m. while the cyclist was attempting to get a water bottle from his bottle cage.
“For triathlon couples like me and my husband, it was scary because it shows anything can happen,” said Lorhiz Lopez, who competed in the all-women relay and whose husband Mendel is also a triathlete. (He placed seventh among the male elite and third among the Filipinos.)
“It totally changes my outlook in all these. When we were single, all we cared about was finishing first or coming up with the best times. Now that I am married and have a child, all I could think of is finishing the race safely so that I could get back to my son in one piece. Same goes with my husband. I will always be waiting for him at the finish line scared out of my wits,” said Lopez.
Cebuano businessman Chris Aldeguer said: “I was very shocked when I learned about it. The triathlon community will surely be extending our prayers.”
Police officials said no untoward incidents occurred along the race routes in the cities of Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu.
The Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippines, however, caused traffic congestion in some major roads.
Frank Brazil, head of Lapu-Lapu City Traffic Management System, said traffic on the Sangi-Matumbo road and the Marcelo B. Fernan Bridge was heavy.
“The traffic was slow, but moving,” Brazil said in an interview. Ninety traffic enforcers were sent to the streets.
Senior Police Officer 4 Apolinario Neis, of the Mandaue City Police Office’s Traffic Section, said there was congestion on U.N. Ave. and M.C. Briones. They received no reports of road accidents.
To help some people catch their flights in Mactan, some traffic enforcers were seen giving passengers and their baggage motorcycle rides across the Fernan Bridge.
Superintendent Noel Gillamac, director of the Mandaue City Police Office, said police officials and traffic enforcers had to deal with motorists who were unaware of the road closures.
“I think there should have been a more extensive public information campaign,” he told Sun.Star Cebu.
Around 300 police officers were fielded along the race routes in Mandaue City. More than 7,000 students were also deployed to cheer the athletes.
Superintendent Rey Lyndon Lawas, acting chief of the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office, said they had no problem controlling the crowd.
The City Government of Lapu-Lapu conducted a dry run for the cheering teams days before the triathlon. Nearly all of the pro athletes interviewed after the race mentioned the crowd’s support as one of the highlights.
Defending champion Belinda Granger, who placed third, told ironman.com: “I have never experienced that amount of support out there on the bike before. I think every single person that lives on the island and surrounds the island was out there cheering. You guys should be extremely proud of yourselves. Never have I experienced that in all my years of racing.” (With Rebelander S. Basilan & Justin K. Vestil/Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 06, 2012.