Aloha, Hawaii! Noy is the Ironman Pinoy

“I was 14 years old when I got a hand-me-down copy of Triathlete magazine from my uncle Jeng, who was the Philippine champion at that time,” said Noy Jopson.

“I was drawn to the images of the race, the lava fields, the legendary winds of the Queen K Highway, the crowd at Alii Drive as you’re about to finish the race. It’s what got me in the sport in the first place 22 years ago.”

The Ford Ironman World Championship. It’s the Wimbledon of triathlon. It’s their Super Bowl, World Cup, and Olympics. It’s happening next Sunday, October 9. And Noy Jopson is joining.

Only one other Cebuano has ever participated in this event that covers a 3.9-km. swim, a 180-km. bike ride, and a 42-km. run. That Cebuano is Fred Uytengsu, the owner of Alaska Milk and one of the country’s most influential sportsmen. Fred, who resides in Manila, is “Cebuano” because he was born here. Noy is also Cebuano. He’s married to Amale Mendezona and, for many years now, has called this city home.

The Ironman in Kona, Hawaii is exclusive. Only qualifiers (the elite triathletes) can join. Noy qualified in last August’s Ironman in Camsur.

Noy is a legend in this swim-bike-run event. He is a 4-time Phil. champion (1994, 95,1997,98), a silver medalist in the Asian Championships in Korea, and was the Philippine record holder in the Olympic Distance from 1998 to 2009, timing 2:01:04.

In the inaugural Ironman two years ago in Camarines Sur, he was the Filipino Elite Champion. Two months ago, he was 2nd overall, 35 to 39 age group—which made him qualify for Hawaii.

Next Sunday? As expected, he aims high. “I expect to have a great race since I prepared very well for this event,” he said. “I also expect to savor every moment of the whole experience.”

Noy’s goal is to become only the second Filipino in history to go under 10 hours. The reigning Cobra Ironman 70.3 Philippine champ, Arland Macasieb, holds the record at 9:48. Noy wants to be “the first one to do it in the Kona Ironman World Championships.”

His time goals: 58 mins on the 3.9km swim, 5:28 on the 180km bike and then a 3:28 marathon. His favorite discipline? The bike. “I love the technology and the feeling of speed,” he said.

A total of 14 Pinoys are joining. “There are 11 Pinoys who qualified in Camsur, all the original Camsur Podium Placers, myself, Peter Gonzales and Ferdie Catabian have qualified. Its awesome that I will get to share the journey with five of my teammates from Polo Tri Team, Ferdie, Fiona Ottinger, Larry Ocampo, Amanda Carpo and captain Fred Uytengsu who will be doing Kona for the 2nd time. There are also 2 Fil-Ams who have qualified in the US, so all in all there will be 14 Pinoys at the Ironman World Championships.”

This 226-km. distance is not new to Noy. In the only two Ironman events held here, he’s placed first (Phil. Enduraman 2003) and second (Phil. Iron-Distance 2002).

Noy’s schedule includes joining 20,000 others in today’s Milo Half-Marathon. He’ll pace with his wife Amale. “It be my last long run and we hope to run it in 1:45, which will also be my target pace for Kona on Saturday,” he said. “Tomorrow (Monday), I head to The Brick Multi-Sport Store in McKinley Hill to pack my bike in a hard case and get nutrition supplies. Tuesday after lunch I’m off to Honolulu, staying with my Tita overnight, then Kona early Wednesday morning. I’ll be back in Cebu on the 14th in time for Mendel and Lhoriz’s wedding.”

I asked Noy, What will you think about in those 10 hours of suffering in Hawaii? “I will be thinking a lot about my family back here in Cebu, my wife Amale, kids Mikele and Rafa. I’ll also be thinking about my mom, who’s been my number one sponsor over the years; my sister Joyette, cousins Pong, Redg and Ogie who are all triathletes and have all shared the journey with me. I’m so blessed to have a supportive family, I have to make it up to them big time when I get back.”

Categorized as Triathlon
John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

1 comment

  1. Great guy, great bunch of guys and girls i am sure who went to kona. BUT, most people in this country are casual fans of the sport and do not really know the real tradition of the hawaii race…one of them is in fact the high standards which athletes must meet in order to participate, usually in the top 1 to 2% of their age division. And the athlete had to earn it by racing the FULL ironman distance, not the half ironman distance, which is what camsur was. It was not until recently that any person could qualify in any half-ironman and in the case of camsur, it was by sheer luck ( ironman china was cancelled) that the race was awarded automatic qualification berths to the prestigious hawaiian race. Anyone who won their age group would now get to go, even if they did not do a full ironman to get there, unlike most of the rest of the competitors in hawaii. Not fair, but you cannot blame the competitors, they had no control over it.

    Where the problem lies is in the divisions that people race in in camsur. Most of the people who qualified for hawaii have raced in the filipino elite category…not amateur, and have for the last 2 races there. They raced in that category as they had earned it in other races, and it gives them a higher status than the amateurs, just below the professionals. Then as soon as the hawaiian qualification suddenly appeared, many threw off that elite status and raced as AMATEURS!. This was only made possible by a ruling by the organizers who allowed such an unprecedented move…basically they made their own rules, bent them just enough , of course favorable to those at the top, and the rest is history. It smells fishy and all too familiar in this country. No one cares because the only people who would complain are those amateurs who just potentially lost a spot…but what about justice and the sportsmanship—do those even matter anymoe? Clearly, in principle, what happened is unfair and more so than that, it disrespects the traditions of the hawaiian race itself. If you go there, you have to earn it. NO SHORTCUTS, PERIOD. If there is any part of the ironman tradition, it is just that simple ethos. It does not matter if you are the best athlete in the nation, or you have won every race or that you are generally good for the sport and the country —you still have to qualify the right way, just like everyone else from around the world. That is about as fair as it gets. In the case of many of these homegrown athletes, that is just not the case.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *