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Will we see the biggest race of the year with over 6,000 athletes this weekend?

Event in Taitung, Taiwan expected to have one of the year's biggest fields

Photo by: Challenge Family

While here in Canada it is easy to imagine we might not see any racing happening this year, Challenge Taiwan is getting ready to host over 6,000 competitors in Taitung this weekend. That won’t include any foreign athletes or pros – while international visitors were allowed to start entering the country in March, tourists and “social visitors” are still not allowed. The race weekend includes  a junior race along with sprint-, standard-, half- and full-distance races.

The event takes place in Taitung, which is on the southeast coast of Taiwan. The race begins in a man-made reservoir called Flowing Lake, while the bike course heads north along the coast between the Carp mountains the the Pacific Ocean. The run course includes the Taitung city centre and country roads before finishing in Tie Hua village.

Taiwan’s COVID-19 response

There have only been 11 deaths from COVID-19 in Taiwan. The country had 1,076 cases of the disease.

“Taiwan has one of the lowest coronavirus death counts in the world,” according to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. “Experts say that free and rapid testing, an effective quarantine and contact tracing system, wide availability of face masks, regular communication with the public, and enforcement for those who don’t follow social distancing rules have all helped the country reopen safely.”

According to a story posted on The Lancet, an extensive public health infrastructure, early screening, effective isolation and quarantine methods, digital technologies for identifying potential cases and extensive mask use meant Taiwan avoided a lockdown.

Michael Raelert at the finish line of the 2019 Challenge Taiwan full-distance race. Photo: Challenge Family

Goal to become largest triathlon in Asia-Pacific region

While international competitors won’t be competing this weekend, the huge field could make the race one of the largest triathlon races in the world this year. Another country that has done considerably better than many others in terms of COVID-19, Australia, typically holds another of the sport’s biggest events – the Noosa Triathlon weekend typically includes 8,000 to 10,000 competitors. The race organizers in Taiwan hope to get to that level.

“We started to return to family life and looking for an attitude of self-realization,” says Jovi Lo, the CEO of Challenge Family Asia Pacific. “We are very dedicated to promote triathlon as a wonderful sport, together with the Taitung government, and we want to become the largest triathlon event in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Last year’s race was postponed from April to November, and included about 5,000 competitors once it did take place.

“We all look back on a strange year in which a lot of people agree that we were not able to do everything we would have liked to do,” Lo continues. “At the same time we showed our strength by organizing the  Challenge Taiwan 2020 edition at the end of last year and this weekend we are even going to top that. There is nothing better than looking for the connection with each other now.”