Lack of Asia-based world-class adventure athletes

 

Several years ago when these newsletters started I would have predicted that by the time 2004 came around we’d have a recognized adventure racing world championships, that the world 100km championships would be a major event on the world’s sporting calendar and that Asian teams would be making an increasing impact.

 

Somewhere along the way it hasn’t quite happened. There’s been no shortage of people willing it to happen but there has also been an equal number of people pulling in other directions. Throw in a touch of apathy and a bit of greedy self interest and you end up with a fairly unhealthy cocktail.

 

Most of the good guys trying to make things happen are on this list and I know some of the frustrations they have had to put up with in order to move forward the various forms of endurance sport.

 

And that’s precisely why we, as athletes, have to make things happen. Our responsibility is to push ourselves to the highest level we can, not accept anything less than the very best and accept that to compete at the top level sacrifices have to be made.

 

Although there is no such thing as an official world championship, the Adventure Race World Series is the closest we’ve got and the showpiece event in Newfoundland in August promises to be a wonderful event. Yet with only days to go before the deadline there is no Asian entry. There’s the usual group of Kiwis, Aussies, Americans, Europeans of most varieties plus the South Africans and Canadians. Even Chile and Columbia are sending teams but from Asia: nothing.

 

Sure it’s not cheap (when is any 500km race?) but with the economy improving and the prospects of sponsorship infinitely better than they were a year ago it is still a surprise to me that no one from this part of the world has entered.

 

Other race directors in Europe and America have also made the same comment to me: where have all the Asian based entrants gone?

 

I suspect the same thing will happen in this year’s world 100km championships. The prospect of an increase in Asian teams competing looks remote and yet our athletes would surely do well in the relatively benign conditions of Holland.

 

Last year’s race in Taiwan has recently been the subject of some debate. The discussion has been well intentioned and, for once, intelligent.

 

Respected commentator, Andy Milroy, has put forward the view that ultras run in the heat and humidity of Asia (even in November) result in poor times and that this has a negative impact on athletes and teams attracting the sponsorship they need to fund themselves.

 

Perhaps not surprisingly this has provoked several alternative views but the key issue for me is that those of us who live in hot, humid conditions have no choice: if we want to race or train, we have to put up with it.

 

Sure we can get up before dawn and start training (see what I said about sacrifices above) but whichever way you look at it endurance athletes in most of Asia simply have to train in heat and humidity. As a result we handle difficult conditions as well as anybody.

 

All of which makes me think that if athletes in Asia are bold enough to set their goals high enough, enter the best races, and take on the best in the world we might just get some results that surprise us.