Just when you think you're tough enough

Tough Takes Triathlon

Young triathlete podiums at Ultra Aquathlon 2017 for Juniors

Teenager Angie Liew (right) placed 3rd in the Female Dash Category at the Ultra Aquathlon 2017.

Teenager Angie Liew has grown to love competing in Triathlon, following her father’s footsteps. This 13 year-old sweet lass recounts her recent podium finish at the Ultra Aquathlon in Malacca, in the Dash category on a 300m open water swim and 2km run.

It was still dark and grim as my family and I reached the serene beach. Energetic music played in the background nearby. Bright streaks of sunlight painted the sky, like orange watercolour on an obsidian-black canvas. Shivers went down my spine as the breeze fluttered past, blowing my long hair into my face. It was already seven in the morning and the Ultra Aquathlon would start soon on the Klebang beach in Malacca.

It was an Aquathlon, hence the name, and consisted of two principles: swimming, then running. I was excited yet doubtful as I knew that this race would depend heavily on my worst principle, which was swimming.

“A great way to start off the new year” my mother had said, and I decided to believe it too. I grabbed my race equipment, and set up at the transition area. There was still a 2-hour wait more before my category would start racing and I could feel the welcoming waves from the sea calling me, inviting me with open arms, ready to engulf me forever.

Flagging off the Dash category of Ultra Aquathlon 2017 on Klebang beach in Malacca.

The sun rose slowly, stretching over the horizon amidst a light pinkish sky, with dashes of orange and red. My teammates and I waded into the cool, murky water to warm up and I was surprised to find that instead of a sandy seabed, it was soft silt looking like mud! It was really weird to the touch at first, but after awhile, it seemed quite comfortable, and wasn’t sharp like sand against my feet.

On the starting line, both boys and girls from ages 8-15 lined up, listening to a briefing by the organisers on the swim route, and where to get out of the water. I was becoming a nervous wreck out there, and the butterflies in my stomach were going crazy. And finally we were flagged off!

We sprinted down the sandy beach and dived into the shallow sea, splashing and thrashing around, making it impossible to see ahead. I pushed ahead, feeling the smooth rhythm of the swim, and the icy water swirling past my body. As I reached the first 100 meter buoy and turned left, I was trying to keep up with the person in front of me as my arms ached from pulling, but I didn’t give up. I imagined my parents on the shore, cheering me on, so I pushed on stroke by stroke.

Completing the 300 meter swim, I emerged from the sea unsteadily, stumbling with exhaustion and a mouthful of salty seawater. I sprinted to the transition, where I saw another girl and I set my mind to pace with that girl on the run.

Angie finishing the 300m swim in the open sea off Klebang beach.

To my horror, as I tried to slide into my shoes, I realised that there was crumpled newspaper in my shoes! I scrambled to seize the newspaper out of my shoes, wasting countless amount of seconds; watching in vain as a few others passed me.

Through the haze of my dismay, I saw another girl not too far up ahead of me, running steadily with her dark ponytail swinging behind her. My heart leapt as I picked up the pace, planning to overtake her. With every painful step, I just imagined my parents waiting anxiously at the finish line for me. It was hard to tell how much further I had left to run and I could feel the scorching sun against my skin as sweat rained down my face.

Teenager Angie Liew (right) placed 3rd in the Female Dash Category at the Ultra Aquathlon 2017.
Siblings Angie (2nd fr right) and Edward (right) and friends, all smiles after finishing the Ultra Aquathlon at Klebang, Malacca.

I felt my whole body fly in the final meters and my legs grew numb, but I refused to give in as I flew across the finishing line, completing 2 kilometers. Relief and contentment flooded through me.

Surrounded by my teammates in the finishing area, we chilled in the ice pool, and laughed our sorrows away. It was tiring but enjoyable just to be there, surrounded by the whole community of athletes and racers. I finished third in my age and gender category, and was proud to step up on the podium once more.

It was a weekend well spent, worthwhile to race and have fun with my family. I felt that somehow, this sporting event had brought my family bond closer together, in the midst of all our different lives.

View more photos on Tough Asia’s Facebook album courtesy of Wilson Liew.

Triathlon siblings, Angie (left) and Edward (right) at the Ultra Aquathlon in Malacca.
Triathlon siblings, Angie (left) and Edward (right) representing ToughAsia at the Ultra Aquathlon in Malacca.

More about the budding triathlete

Angie Liew, 13 is a petite girl who just loves the feeling of wind blowing through her hair. Introduced to sports and triathlon by her father, she’s loving it and just won’t stop!

She started with Kids of Steel Triathlon and transitioned to train under Team M3X of TRI-AMAteur Triathlon Club, currently a Year 9 student of Tenby International School, Setia Eco Park.