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Sazali Abdul Aziz
The Straits Times
Oct 22, 2022
A 36-year-old Singaporean man died after encountering difficulties during a triathlon event in Portugal on Oct 15.
The man, identified by Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao as Mr Derrick Tee, was participating in the Ironman Portugal-Cascais race. Cascais is a coastline town in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon.
In a statement posted on its Facebook page, Ironman Portugal confirmed the death of a race participant during the triathlon, which comprised the full distance (3.8km swim, 180km bicycle ride and 42km run) and 70.3 event (1.9km swim, 90km cycle, 21km run).
“During the swim portion of Saturday’s race, the athlete required and received medical assistance before being transported from the event,” it said.
“Despite best medical efforts, the athlete passed in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. We share our greatest sympathies with the family and friends of the athlete and will continue to offer them our support as they go through this very difficult time.
“We thank the swim safety personnel and first responders who worked quickly to provide the athlete with medical support.”
We are deeply saddened to confirm the death of a race participant at the IRONMAN Portugal - Cascais triathlon. During...
According to the Ironman website, Mr Tee was the only Singaporean participating in the race, which reportedly featured 4,800 participants.
Lianhe Zaobao reported that the Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Singapore in Lisbon is assisting Mr Tee’s family.
According to information on the triathlon website CoachCox, Mr Tee had participated in six other Ironman races between 2016 and 2019, in Vietnam, the Philippines, Sydney (twice) and Bintan (twice).
Former national triathlete Mok Ying Ren, who is a doctor at a public hospital, noted that triathlons “are taxing on the body and sudden deaths during or after races are rare, but it happens”.
“The advice is always to go for pre-participation screening, especially if a person is sedentary and is looking to start (in such strenuous activity),” he added.
“Having said that, even if you do the right preparation, practice due diligence and race within your limits, (complications) can still happen.”
Dr Mok, 34, won the triathlon gold medal at the 2007 SEA Games. That year, he was part of the SEA Games selection race where teammate Thaddeus Cheong, 17, collapsed after crossing the finish line following a 1.5km swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run. Cheong was pronounced dead hours later after being taken to hospital.
Mr Tee is the fifth recorded fatality at an Ironman triathlon since June – three of the other cases were in races held in the United States while one was in England – and all involved participants who had suffered issues during the swimming leg of the race.
Said Dr Mok: “Swimming is naturally difficult because you’re out in the sea, and in a race you have people thrashing around so help (often) cannot be delivered quickly, especially if you’re drowning in the middle of the pack. So it’s particularly challenging.”