In an exciting finish, IIT Bombay Alumni, Nihal Baig pipped defending champion Bisworjit Saikhom of the Indian Army to win the second edition of IRONMAN 70.3 Goa, which was flagged off at the Miramar Beach, Panaji by Goa’s Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Sunday.
Over 1450 participants added to the fervour of the race which is a qualifying event for the IRONMAN World Championships and participants were required to complete a gruelling 1.9km open sea swim, 90 km cycling and 21 km running.
Baig, who works as an aerospace engineer with MSCI Mumbai, overtook Saikhom in the last 7 km of the 21 km run after trailing behind in the open water swim (1.9km) and the 90km cycling.
Ecstatic after finishing overall first with an impressive time of 4 hours 29 minutes and 45 seconds, Baig said, “Last time I finished second in the first edition of IRONMAN 70.3 Goa, so it feels good to finish ahead of Saikhom this time. My swim is a little weak but my running is fast and in the previous edition I could cover up to 7 minutes in running so I knew I could overtake him in the run."
Having completed five half-IRONMAN races so far, Baig said this is among the most challenging races he has participated in. “I think the uphill cycle course and the elevation in the running course makes this a very challenging race but I really enjoy the atmosphere here in Goa," he said.
Meanwhile, Bishworjit clocked 04:37.21 to finish overall second while 40-year-old Pankaj Dhiman of Delhi finished third clocking 04:40:41.
“Last time I competed in the relay event and we won but this time I wanted to do the individual race. I will be racing in Tel Aviv in the next 10 days for a full-distance IRONMAN and I thought this race would be good preparation for the full distance. It’s great that we have an opportunity to qualify for the World Championships here, as I feel we stand a better chance here than in races abroad," stated Pankaj Dhiman after the race.
Among the women, Catjin Schierbeek of Switzerland finished first with the time of 05:10:46 while Tim Tim Sharma of India finished behind her clocking 05:23:21 and Ketaki Sathe (05:46.51) finished overall third in the women’s category.
“It was hot, and it was a tough course, particularly the run. It also got a bit windy when we cycled but overall it was a great race and I am happy to be the first to finish among Indian women," expressed Bangalore’s Tim Tim Sharma, a seasoned marathoner. “My brother, my parents and my friends are all here to cheer me and support me. I absolutely would like to see more women take up this event," added Sharma.
In the relay, teams formed by the Indian Air Force as part of Yoska’s Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav initiative clinched the top three places. TI Adventure clocked 04:29:02 while the second place went to T Services (04:32:22) and third place to TIAF Team (04:32:28).
‘GREAT TO HAVE IRONMAN IN INDIA’
With a larger number of international participants this year, IRONMAN 70.3 Goa is a preferred destination for global participants like 51-year-old Pablo Erat of Switzerland who finished overall sixth. He was well ahead of the pack at the end of the 90km cycling course.
“The atmosphere in India is great, with very enthusiastic people taking part. In Europe, you can see a lot of grim faces, but here it’s more of a celebration. I love that IRONMAN is in India now, introducing this standard of racing here is great. It is professionally organised and attracts people from all over the world," Erat said after the race.
Like Pablo, 40-year-old Farai Dalu has travelled all the way from Zimbabwe for the race. He finished 9th overall and even though it was a tough course Dalu is sure of returning to India again.
He said, “This is the first time I am coming to India and I really wanted to come race in Goa and also enjoy the culture of this place. Definitely, the race itself was quite tough with a hilly cycle route and humid conditions to run but I absolutely enjoyed it. I will be going to Mumbai for a quick trip before I fly back home."
Catjin Schierbeek who finished first among the women expressed gratitude towards the local community in Goa, who helped her borrow a cycle for the race day.
She said, “I arrived only on Friday, and I was also jetlagged. I decided to race here at the last moment but I really wanted to be here. I borrowed my bike from a local here and this local triathlon club also helped me a lot. Even though the race was really challenging, I go back only with the best memories."
1. Nihal Baig (India): 04:29:45
2. Bishworjit Saikhom (India): 04:37:21
3. Pankaj Dhiman (India): 04:40:41
4. P Ravalu (India): 04:41:36
5. A Kandikuppa (Singapore): 04:42:50
6. Pablo Erat (Switzerland): 04:44:25
7. Marcel King (Belgium): 04:45:23
8. MS Arafat (Bangladesh): 04:52:14
9. Farai Dalu (Zimbabwe): 05:00:46
10. Ujjwal Anand (India): 05:01:39
Top five (women):
1. Catjin Schierbeek (Switzerland): 05:10:46
2. Tim Tim Sharma (India): 05:23:21
3. Ketaki Sathe (India): 05:46:51
4. Srivani Y. V. (India): 06:07:39
5. Su Yin Ong (India): 06:14:23.
Read all the Latest Sports News here(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)