A bike crash left a gash on her arm but a brave Clara Wong finishes her race. Source : (Photo 1 © Lai Jun Wei/Red Sports)
East Coast Park, Sunday, August 15, 2010 — It was an unfortunate day for Singapore representative Clara Wong in the girls’ triathlon as she crashed on her bike leg, then suffered a flat tyre. She eventually came through the finish line in 30th and last position with a time of 1 hour 21 minutes 30.85 seconds.
Korea’s Kim Heesun and Puerto Rico’s Cristina Betancourt did not finish and were sent to hospital after they crashed their bikes.
Clara’s time was 20 minutes 41.16 seconds behind the winner, Yuka Sato of Japan, who clocked 1:00:49.69 for the sprint distance triathlon (750m swim, 20km bike, and 5km run). Ellie Salthouse of Australia and Kelly Whitley of the United States took the silver and bronze medals, 14.70 seconds and 23.80 seconds behind Sato respectively.
It was a cool morning (by Singapore standards at least) after early morning showers meant a slippery and tricky bike leg awaited the triathletes. The air temperature was recorded at 27 degrees celsius. And as the air-horn signalled the start of the race at 9am (local time), the field of 32 girls ran towards and plunged into the 27.8 degrees celsius waters off East Coast Park.
First out of the water and the transition zone was Christine Ridenour of Canada in 10:01. Yuka Sato, the winner of the Asian qualifiers, was right behind her in 10:07. Marlene Gomez of Germany, the winner of the European qualifiers, was also not far off in ninth position with a time of 10:14.
Clara timed 10:39 and was 18th out of the transition into the bike. She was together in the chasing pack with the winners of the Pan-American and Oceania qualifers, Adriana Barraza of Mexico and Ellie Salthouse of Australia respectively.
American Kelly Whitley, who was in 24th position after the first transition, was timed joint-fastest at 31:31 on the bike leg to haul herself into the lead pack. She was third fastest out of the second transition in a cumulative time of 42:42. Annie Thoren of Sweden and the four winners of the area qualifiers formed up the rest of the top six as they embarked on their run.
As Thailand’s Mattika Mannekaew, who was last entering the bike leg, entered her transition into the run, Singaporean supporters began to wonder if they had missed seeing Clara transit.
But the absence of her bike in the transition zone was an obvious indicator that she had not yet come in.
Alas, about 16 minutes after the first girl had embarked on her run, there Clara was, riding into the transition area to the relief and vociferous support of the Singaporean supporters who had gathered.
And barely two minutes after Clara left for her run, it was Yuka Sato who ran down the finishing straight, grabbing a Japanese national flag, and creating history as the first gold medallist of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games.
Through an interpreter, Sato, who turns 18 this year, commented on her history-making feat after the race: “I am very happy and surprised to win in this Youth Olympic Games.”
She had let on that she was most cautious on the bike leg, saying: “I almost fell on the bike. I had to keep a distance from the other riders to give myself some space.”
On the other hand, Canadian Christine Ridenour did not have such good fortune to ride on. She had crashed on the third of three laps on the bike. Ridenour was first out of the swim and was third (level on time with the leader, Slovenia’s Monika Orazem, after the second bike lap) before she crashed.
She said ruefully after the race: “The crash was a shame because the second pack (of riders) came by me after I had been down for one to two minutes. So we (the lead pack) had a pretty big lead.”
Nevertheless, she finished the race. Ridenour shared: “I was not going to let the crash stop me from giving my best. I was still going to finish.”
As most of the triathletes finished their race and were already resting in the athletes’ area, Singapore hope Clara only just finished.
Clara was visibly shaken and she shared as to what caused her to fall behind the rest of the field: “The turn was very sharp. A cyclist fell in front of me and I fell too.”
As if one crash was not enough, Murphy’s Law decided to pay Clara a visit today.
“After the crash, I had a flat tyre. I couldn’t find the wheel station and so I had to cycle on for a while in search of it,” she added.
When asked what went through her mind having no other competitor in sight ahead of her, Clara revealed: “Deep inside, there was a voice telling me to withdraw but I didn’t want to.”
“I was told by my friend last night to just enjoy the race and I remembered that,” she said.
As Clara shifts her focus from training and competing in the triathlon to her year-end exams at Victoria Junior College, Yuka Sato is only beginning her trek up the world of triathlon.
The newly-crowned Youth Olympic Games triathlon girls’ champion said: “My next aim is the (ITU Elite Sprint) World Triathlon Championships.”
Asked what she will remember of Singapore, she said: “I saw the Merlion.”
Indeed, she not only saw, but also came and conquered.