Phuket is fast becoming a favourite destination for sports enthusiasts and serious athletes from around the world. The island has long been known for its rugged beauty, stretches of lovely beaches, superb diving and numerous luxury hotels and spas. More recently, however, the increase in wellness tourism and health-oriented outdoor events have combined to launch it as a premier choice among casual as well as professional athletes.
Two recent competitions on Phuket demonstrated Phuket's new sporting character. First was the Ironman 70.3 Laguna Phuket race, held earlier in December amidst changing weather conditions that challenged all racers. The ‘top dog’ among peak triathlon competitors worldwide, legendary Australian triathlete Chris McCormack, drew the crowds and pulled ahead of the pack to win in what is widely considered to be a very demanding competition. McCormack, 39, is already known globally for winning the famed Ironman World Championships twice, International Triathlete of the Year five times and 12 Ironman competitions since 1993. He won the Phuket event despite never having raced it before.
The Laguna Phuket Triathlon has been dubbed the “Race of Legends” for its attendance by numerous leading triathletes from around the world and McCormack held off four tough competitors: Swiss LPT winner, Ruedi Wild; American Chris Lieto; Italian Alberto Cassadei; and, the young but impressive upstart from Germany, Tim Meyer.
The women’s component saw another Australian winning — an impressive repeat victory from 2011 for winner Melissa Hauschildt. Czech Republic winner of the LTP, Radka Vodickova, fell behind at the 40km mark and couldn’t regain the lead, finishing second, while Belinda Granger, also of Australia and a longtime Laguna Phuket participant took third place.
Another popular race now taking place on the island is the official IronKids Phuket Championship race, also held in early December. Sponsored by Thanyapura Sports & Leisure Club (TSLC), the event drew 6-17 year-old participants on a safe and secure course in races designed with age-appropriate distances. Kids participated as individual racers or in group relay teams with friends, many having been through professionally led training camps such as those held by TSLC, an impressive sport and leisure facility now offering extensive programmes to cater to active visitors and residents.
Also of important note is the growing number of sailing craft flocking to Phuket thanks to an increase in the number of berths available and the region's perfect sailing conditions and seas. The now famous Phuket King’s Cup Regatta followed the Triathlon, an event first held in 1987 to honour the King of Thailand's 60th birthday. The King's Cup has since become an international-standard event and is known as the premier yachting fixture of the Asian Yachting Grand Prix Circuit, drawing racers and boats from around the world.
With a range of services and facilities now catering to sports enthusiast from a variety of disciplines, as well as international sporting events held throughout the year, Phuket is fast becoming a prime destination for outdoor competitions of all kinds. The island's bounteous scenery, stunning coastal views and quality hospitality makes it the perfect choice for those in search of an active break, whether at the professional or amateur level.