It was his very first time representing Singapore at a major regional level – but Wille Loo Chuan Rong, 32, had been feeling pretty sure and confident of himself in the days leading up to his 2015 SEA Games event – the men’s triathlon.
Said Loo who is self-employed, “I was quite relaxed the day before the race. There was a bit of nervous energy from the build-up to the race, but I felt ready. All the hard work had been done and I was looking forward to the race.”
Torrential downpour was unexpected
But there was one thing that Loo hadn’t been expecting though – the torrential downpour last Sunday morning, on the day of the triathlon.
Said Loo, “The rain brought a different dynamic to the race. Compared to the day before, the temperature was much cooler, but the water conditions during the swim were also a lot more choppy. The rain made the cycling portion more treacherous and after a couple of us crashed in the early stages of the race, the pace wasn’t as high as it would have been if the roads had been dry.”
Suffered a crash during the bike leg
Loo himself had been one of those who had suffered a crash in the bike segment. He explained, “There is a 90 degrees right turn that we have to make after exiting the transition area. The road surface is fairly slick and even has a painted pedestrian crossing there. I was just starting the third lap and was already slowing down a lot going into that corner. I’ve seen some videos of my crash and it looks like my rear wheel just slipped out from under me and there was no escaping after that.”
“My right hip took the brunt of the impact, which affected me much later in the race than I had anticipated. Aside from that, I had a bad cramp in my right calf after I crashed. I also sustained the usual road rash. I was less than halfway through the cycling leg – but thankfully I was able to join up again with the main pack so there was no reason to panic or give up,” Loo added.
Struggled in the first few hundred metres of the run segment
Loo’s injury caught up with him during the final segment of the triathlon – that is, the running leg. He said, “I felt horrible exiting T2. Cycling is largely non-load bearing so I didn’t know how badly my hip was injured. The first few hundred metres of running were a struggle because I couldn’t put all my weight down on my right leg. It was a bit of a hobble and skip. At that point, I had fallen quite far behind, but I was just hoping that the muscles would loosen up.”
Throughout the run segment, Loo found himself struggling to keep up with Thanongsak Manchai from Thailand, whom he found himself running neck-and-neck with – in pursuit of the bronze medal.
Added Loo, “I knew that Tom (Manchai) was tiring, but my legs and hips were giving me so much trouble that I couldn’t keep the pressure on him. I stopped to stretch a couple of times on the second and third laps, so it felt like I was playing catch-up the entire time. I was glad that I managed to get a break at the start of the last lap. I thought he might lose a step or two on a small uphill portion so I tried to keep on going.”
Won the bronze medal for Singapore
In the end, Loo completed the race in third place, to win the bronze medal. Added Loo, “The way my body had been feeling, I knew it wasn’t possible to go with the leaders. Midway through the first lap, when I could run a little better, I knew that I could fight for the bronze.”
Spectators helped to spur him on and encourage him
The spectators during the race definitely helped to spur him on too, according to the triathlete. Loo explained, “The support on the day itself was amazing. I don’t think I will ever experience something like that again. The weather was horrible and the venue wasn’t spectator friendly, yet so many people turned out to cheer us on. I’m very grateful and I would like to thank each one of them.”
SEA Games experience has been an eye-opener
Now that his race is all over, what takeaways does Loo have from his maiden SEA Games experience? He said, “It’s really been an eye-opener. At major Games, everything is run very differently from other international competitions that I have participated in. It’s important to keep focused on the task at hand because throughout the week, it can be easy to get caught up with the excitement of the Games.”
A real privilege to be an athlete at the SEA Games
Apart from competition, Loo’s SEA Games experience has definitely been very memorable. He said, “Being part of the Games as an athlete was an interesting experience! As we travel to the race venues or move around the various locations, we see the amount of work that has gone into an event that is just for a handful of athletes – and you realise it’s a real privilege to be there.”
As a SEA Games athlete, Loo, who had been based with the rest of the triathletes at the Hard Rock Hotel in Resorts World Sentosa – was also grateful to have had access to all of the hotel’s facilities – as well as not having to do any household chores!
“But of course, I missed my wife, son and our two dogs back home, though. And my own bed – as the one at the hotel was a little soft!” Loo quickly added.
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