The Voice of Asian Triathlon: Whit Raymond
We had a chance to talk with Whit Raymond, the voice of triathlon in Asia. As much as we would like to bestow him that title, he’d really like to be known by his name. “No titles please”, he would quip. “And no energizer bunny references too!” Haha! But we could not help it. The man behind the voice of most triathlon races in Asia reaps of excitement and energy, that once an athlete crosses the finish line, a feeling of relief, elation and joy would beam across their faces. AsiaTRI checked up on Whit, and let us know more about the man behind the voice:
- How did you start in the sport? And let’s go back to the time when you officially held the mic and announced for endurance sports for the first time.
Whit: My first Triathlon was an Olympic distance race in Japan in 1986. Somehow or another, I ended up in the lead after the bike and then a Japanese athlete sprinted by me 20 meters before the finish taking the win. I placed second overall and was instantly hooked into the sport. That event was televised as part of an enormously popular Japanese comedy TV show, and I became an instant celebrity nationwide for “letting the Japanese guy win”. HA! My 4th Triathlon was Ironman Japan that same year and it was the first year of the qualifying system for Hawaii. It was a funky distance (not a full Ironman) 3K, 160K, 32K. I placed 12th overall right behind Julie Moss and ended up qualifying for Hawaii. (Mark Allen won and Scott Tinley was a close second). So then I packed my stuff, shaved my legs, and moved to Hawaii. After doing Kona in ’86 I decided to move to Honolulu for a year, ended up living and working there for 7 ½ years, doing Kona 4 more times, as well as helping Ironman with Japanese athletes (race briefings and Japanese media liaison).
The first time I ever picked up a mic at an event was the 1993 Hawaii Ironman World Championship! The PR director at the time approached me and asked what I was doing race day since he knew I wasn’t going to be participating but was on the Big Island to help with the Japanese. He then asked if I could help out our “announce team” saying, “we need someone to stay in the tower and talk for 17 hours”. He must have had some confidence in my ability to handle the job as he stated that “since you have done the event 5 times, know the course, a lot of the athletes, and speak Japanese for the over 200 Japanese athletes” that all was a plus I guess….I told him I’d have a crack at it.
- What were the best or most incredible finishing moments have you encountered? I am pretty sure you had your fair share of finish line proposals.
Whit: I’ve seen a ton of Passion and Emotion coming across Ironman and Triathlon finish lines. The most dramatic finishes were in Hawaii. 1995 Paula Newby Fraser falls down with 400 meters to go and can’t get up. Karen Smyers runs by and wins. Then in ’97 the famous Wendy Ingraham and Sean Welch bump, fall, and crawl finish!
Yes, I have been a part of many peoples wedding proposals and am happy for those that have connected through the sport. Personally however, I do not feel like the finish of a Triathlon is the place to propose to your loved one. But to each his own. I would climb to the top of a mountain with her in a private setting with only the two of us and pop the question there and then.
Afterall, it’s OUR personal business and the world will eventually find out about it. Just my personal feelings. Sorry if I have offended anybody. I am more than happy to support you in your finish line proposals any time!
- Any embarrassing/ or momentous mistake?
Whit: There have been a ton of mistakes and embarrassing moments most of which I’d like to forget and don’t really want to mention. But, we all make mistakes! Like the one time I was getting reports of the lead woman rapidly approaching the finish of a high profile marathon. We get the call she is 400 meters out, we see the lead bicycle, then I start to announce her coming into the finish only to find out it’s a man with a pony tail…The actual lead woman finished a minute behind that guy! Hilarious! But quite embarrassing at the time!
- You speak Nippongo..and pretty sure you have picked up some other asian language too, and you have lorded it over in Asia as far as announcing is concerned. And triathlon in Asia, well in southeast asia, it’s growing tremendously. What makes this region special for you?
Whit: Yes, I speak, read, and write Japanese. I went to University for Japanese and lived in Japan for 3 years then Honolulu for 7 ½. (tons of Japanese there and I had my own business coordinating Japanese TV productions) Don’t speak any other languages except for a bit of Spanish and I can say things like “Hello. I am sorry I do not speak your language” in like 12 languages.
My first event in Southeast Asia was Laguna Phuket Triathlon in 1996. When I go back this year it will be my 21st consecutive time. The longest run outside of 20 consecutive on the mic in Kona and 27 times going. It is really exciting to see the growth of our sport in Southeast Asia! Back in 1996 we had like one or two Thai athletes and certainly no women. Now we have hundreds! We still need more women however but that is happening. The most exciting growth I think, as you may know, is in The Philippines! We live in an era of a fitness boom! Being fit is not just a “trend” it is a way of life and people are VERY VERY EXCITED about fitness and that includes our sport! This is not a bad problem to have!
- How do you do it, I mean being on the mic anywhere from 8-20 hours depending on the event. How do you keep the energy up, man you have heaps of energy announcing all day long!
Whit: Ha! Thanks! I have a lot of passion and energy for Triathlon, Running, etc. I used to race a ton so understand what it feels like being out there. I appreciate other peoples’ passion, dedication, and love for racing and that energizes me immensely! I have down days for sure, but when I switch on that microphone I try my best to be “on” and if I can help somebody to perhaps have an enjoyable experience because of what I do, then that makes me very happy!
- What keeps you busy nowadays when you are off the mic?
Whit: Preparing for the next trip, the next event…I study before every event because I want to know every detail about the events. Athletes, previous results, course layout, sponsors, charities, etc. I also do quite a bit of Voice Over work with Xterra. We do a TV show series called Xterra Adventures and I am in the TV studio quite a bit in between events.
- I’ve read in an article that you were a pretty solid, strong triathlete at your time. Doesn’t the itch go back? maybe do Kona once again?
Whit: When I started racing I realized I had a competitive streak in me and I liked winning. I did manage to find the finish line before anybody else got there on a few occasions way back when as an age grouper. I am still passionate about my fitness and love swimming, biking, and running when I can squeeze it in.
I don’t know if I want to do Kona again (don’t think I could ever qualify again). But after being at Challenge Roth the past 2 years that one seems to be a tempting one to do at least once in a lifetime.
- You have been announcing for more than 20 years now, have the thought of hanging up the mic crept up on you. Can the thought of seeing you holding that ice cold beer while lounging in a tropical beach still a far-fetch possibility?
Whit: I still love my job! I love the travel, love the atmosphere at events, and love meeting people from all over the world. Through the sport of Triathlon I have traveled to more than 30 countries and the list keeps growing! I have always said that if it isn’t fun anymore then I won’t do it any more. It is still tons of FUN!
I do want to get more into the voice over work for sport and perhaps even other areas.
- Finally a message to the Asian triathlon community…when can we see you soonest here in Asia.
Whit: Swim, Bike, Run, HAVE FUN!!!
Please come up and say hello to me. I love meeting new people and seeing old friends!
I’ll be at Ironman Taiwan October 2nd then back in Phuket for Laguna Phuket Triathlon on November 20th and Ironman 70.3 Thailand November 27th!
asiaTRI contributor: Munskie ManalangFollow us
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