Ever since I started covering triathlon events when the sport was at its development stage and its popularity was a far cry from what it is now, I became actively involved in the sport.
The very first triathlon event I covered was in Batangas, I believe in 1987. There were around 14 entries, one of them a son of a friend. He almost did not make it as he collapsed just before the finish line, but managed to crawl to the finish line.
But when Tom Carrasco shifted his attention from road runs to triathlons and took over from the Benitez brothers, the sport, slowly but surely, started growing and expanded nationwide in key cities, spurred by a national age-group triathlon series that the Triathlon Association of the Philippines (TRAP) initiated in cities like Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu and Dumaguete, just to mention a few. Fortunately for me, I managed to convince Tom to bring me along to cover the events.
Truth is, my relationship with Tom went beyond my covering his events, since we were both management people, while he ran his own company, even giving me training jobs with his people all the way to Tiwi in Albay.
Then, to push further, he started the Subic Bay International Triathlon even as he was still learning the organizing part. The first race in the early 90s only had 50 entries, but the event gained traction through the years that world-class and world champion international triathletes started competing regularly.
Soon, our triathletes started dominating in the Southeast Asian region, and duathletes, too emerged in the scene.
Paratriathlon, for the differently-abled, has come to the fore in recent years. Fact is, Tom requested me to initially head the Philippine Paratriathlon Committee or PPTC, which I did for a couple of years until early this year.
Now, why am I writing about triathlon?
For one, the sport’s ruling body, the International Triathlon Union or ITU has taken the lead in holding a world championship just recently in Hamburg, Germany. It was difficult because they had to follow strictly the safety protocols amidst the corona virus pandemic.
So I called up Tom to ask what is happening with the sport presently, and he referred me to his core group, headed by the likes Mon Marchan, Sarita Zafra, who provided updates, Anton Tangan, coach Anthony Lozada, and old timer Ric Reyes.
Tom shared that he has been slowly turning over the reins of TRAP to a younger group, but will still serve as a senior adviser and supporter of the sport.
Presently, the training of national triathletes, particularly the elite ones is continuing. Kim Mangrobang is still in Portugal under Sergio Perez; Kim Kilgroe and Fer Casares are back in the United States, where they train; John Chicano trains in Subic; and Kim Remolino stays in Cebu under the guidance of his father Andoy.
TRAP is also working with the Philippine Sports Commission for the needed logistical and funding support for these athletes, while our paratriathletes are also training on their own, guided by head coach Lozada.
Next year, TRAP has already set dates for the start of the national age-group series in February, while the SUBIT race, which for the first time was not held this year since 1998 when it was done in Caliraya, will be on May 1 and 2.
I just hope that other sports are also on the comeback path, planning and preparing their own interim programs for next year. Sports may be in a moribund stage in general now, but I believe it is just a matter of time before we got back on track.
For me, I will continue supporting triathlon and TRAP now and in the years to come.