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Continental Championships kick off in Asia

Chinese runner Yan Long Fei. ©ancorless.com

The first of the five 2015 Continental Championships kicks off in Asia in Hong Kong on February 7. Both the Sky and Ultra distances (26 km and 50 km) will be disputed at the MSIG Sai Kung 50 where points for the Skyrunner® World Series are also awarded.

China, with runners from Hong Kong, Taiwan and the mainland, will battle with top runners from Japan, Malaysia and Nepal for the Skyrunning Asian Championship medals - while a world-class line-up will be pushing for points in the Skyrunner® World Series: the new 3 + 1 formula, where three out of five Series races in each discipline are scored, plus one race of any of the Continental Series.

Early points provide a great platform on which to build a season and this is reflected with the presence of top class athletes including:

Marco De Gasperi, Elisa Desco, Kasie Enman, Tom Owens, Fulvio Dapit, Stephanie Jimenez, Alesandra Carlini, Vlad Ixel, Samir Tamang, Luke Nelson, Blake Hose, Dong Li, Yan Long Fei, Mira Rei and many more.

China Skyrunning chairman, Michael Maddess, has assembled a high quality field that will do battle on the trails of Sai Kung after starting in Pak Tam Chung Picnic Garden. Rest assured, this race will be no picnic!

Brit Tom Owens. © Jordi Saragossa

Two races count for the Asian Championshps: a 28 km SkyRace® and the 50 km Ultra SkyMarathon®. The SkyRace® counts 1,954m of vertical gain and 1,941m loss with a maximum elevation of 408m. The Ultra SkyMarathon® has 2,810m of elevation gain and 2781m of elevation loss.
Michael Maddess comments: “This 50km course is tough and, we believe, one of the toughest 50 km courses in Hong Kong. At the same time, it’s one of the most spectacularly beautiful courses in Asia.”

When a race field contains past champions, world champions and a plethora of rising talent, we know the action in Hong Kong is going to be electrifying.

Italy’s Marco de Gasperi heads up the men’s field in the SKY category, a multiple WMRA World Champion, Marco needs no introduction. When in form he is an unstoppable force on any mountain course. Brit Tom Owens is back after a successful 2014 where he excelled in the ULTRA distance, in particular Transvulcania, Ice Trail Tarentaise and Trofeo Kima.

“I’m very excited about racing in Hong Kong, especially in Sai kung, where the trails look great. It will be nice to get some warmer weather (it’s been very wet and dark in Scotland) and kick start the 2015 Skyrunning campaign with an early season race.”

Martin Gaffuri moved up the ISF rankings in 2013 with a series of strong and consistent performances. However, 2014 was a troubled year and it will be interesting to see if Martin has recharged his batteries for the 2015 season. Other names to watch in a stellar line up are Dai Matsumoto (Japan), Darren Benson (Australia), Patrik Li and Matt Moroz who was 4th overall at Hong Kong’s Lantau 50.

In the ladies race, Elisa Desco is the current Skyrunning World Champion and along with a string of high profile performances in 2014 is without doubt a hot favourite for victory here. Stephanie Jimenez is a last minute entry to the race and is always a force to be reckoned with. Also watch out for Kanako Hasegawa, one of Japan’s top ultra runners.

Elisa Desco, Skrunning World Champion. ©ancorless.com

The Ultra SkyMarathon® race provides a double whammy on the trails of Sai Kung and local Yan Long Fei is a hot favourite after winning the Hong Kong 100 just two weeks ago.  Australian Blake Hose surprised everyone at the 2014 Skyrunning World Championships when he placed 6th overall. Blake is going to be eager to impress. However, American Luke Nelson loves the mountains and excels at the 100-mile distance. A regular on the Skyrunning circuit, Luke has placed highly at Transvulcania and Speedgoat 50k.  Australian, Vlad Ixel lives in Hong Kong and after picking up an injury just before HK100, Vlad will be looking for pay back in Sai Kung. Samir Tamang from Nepal placed 2nd at the TDS (UTMB sister race) in 2014 and may well surprise many. However, Italian Fulvio Dapit is a Skyrunner in the purest form, he has experience and endurance that will play into his hands on a tough course here in Hong Kong. David Byrne heads up the other contenders for the Sai Kung crown that includes, Marco Sturm, Mohamad Affindi Nudin, Chou Pin Chi, Naoichiro Muto and Sota Ogawa.

American Kasie Enman deciding to race this early in the season can only mean one thing, early season points and the opportunity to gain a foothold in the Skyrunner® World Series.

“I am excited to kick off the 2015 Skyrunning Season with the MSIG Sai Kung 50.  I finished up my 2014 racing season mid-September with a 2nd place overall ranking in the Skyrunning Ultra Series, then took a couple months of down time in my training and racing to recuperate and enjoy time with my family at home in Vermont (Northeast USA, near the Canadian border).  I am excited to have the opportunity to come to Hong Kong to see the trails and meet the trail runners here.  It will be my first time visiting and running in Asia.”

Kasie Enman. ©Jordi Saragossa

Wyan Chow Pui Yan and Dong Li placed first and second at the recent HK100 and, if recovered, they will push Kasie all the way to the line. In 2014, Italian Alessandra Carlini placed 2nd at Sai Kung and followed up her performance with a string of top results. Considering Alessandra lives on the Italian coast, her ability in the mountains is seriously impressive as we witnessed at Ice Trail Tarentaise and Trofeo Kima. Lucy Bartholomew may well be a surprise package. Lucy is the junior Skyrunning World Champion and so therefore Sai Kung will be a steep learning curve for the young Australian.

“Don’t think about it as one big chunk of a run. For me I break it down into checkpoints and make it into achievable amounts! It’s never going to be easy but the key is to find happiness in the toughness of it because when you get to the top it’s worth it!”

Qui Lijie heads up the local talent followed by Shiho Iwadate, Hsiao Shiang Chong and Ho Jo Chum.

All the action starts in the early hours of Saturday February 7th - a great start to the 2015 international skyrunning season.

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