AsiaTRI-Singapore Interview: Jonathan Ma, Kona Qualifier
After years of racing in the ITU and becoming the first reserve for Singapore’s 2015 SEA Games team, Jonathan Ma will be representing the nation in a world championship over a different distance. His age-group win at Ironman Korea with a time of 10:42:05 — his 2nd Ironman finish– has opened the door for him to race the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii next year.
After racing the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in 2010, he moved down in distance to concentrate on standard and sprint races until he focused on building a career . For the 29-year-old, this is a dream come true nine years in the making. We sat down to find out what it took to get him to this point:
AsiaTRI-SG: How long have you been doing triathlon?
Jonathan: I started doing triathlons in 2008, when I joined the NUS Aquathlon Team and my teammates encouraged me to pick up cycling on top of swimming and running. I started off with a sprint triathlon on a borrowed bike. I had so much fun during that race, and in my enthusiasm, immediately signed up for my next triathlon, which was the IRONMAN 70.3 Singapore. I guess that makes it 9 years now.
AsiaTRI-SG: When did you start dreaming of going to Kona?
Jonathan: The Kona dream surfaced in 2009 when I started training for the IRONMAN 70.3 Singapore. I had been watching videos of IRONMAN Kona races then and the beautiful landscapes and the many stories of the athletes in those videos had me wishing I could race there someday too. A year later, I found myself in Kona as a spectator, and I count myself lucky to have witnessed Chris McCormack take the crown after a tight race. I still remember that giving me goosebumps.
AsiaTRI-SG: How long did you take to prepare for IM Korea?
Jonathan: A good friend, Jiajie, asked me along for the IM Korea race and I thought, hey why not. In April this year, I started training specifically for Korea. Unfortunately, a bike accident took place in May, which took me out for 3 weeks, not to mention having my bike broken. Without a bike and covered with road rash, I could only do some indoor cycling on the Wattbike. I had to be very careful not to let the wounds get infected. It also took some time for me be comfortable with riding on the roads again. In addition, I had to spend many Saturdays working this year so I really had to make full use of whatever free time I had on weekdays to train. I planned my own training programme around my work schedule, which worked out well for me as I could be flexible with my training sessions depending on my fatigue level that week.
AsiaTRI-SG: How will you prepare for Kona 2018?
Jonathan: I will have to see what next year’s work schedule will be like. The benefit of qualifying for Kona early is that I have time to work up my fitness and also address my shortcomings. After reflecting how I did in Korea (with the limited training I had), I identified what I can work on in order to shore up my weaknesses and make sure that next time I won’t end up imploding after 15km into the run leg.
AsiaTRI-SG: Any inspirational words for SG athletes?
Jonathan: Chase your dreams while making the best out of the circumstances. I started out 9 years ago with the dream of qualifying for Kona. Yet, after racing in the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in 2010, circumstances led me to taking part in ITU races. And now, I am back to doing long-distance triathlons. The distance of the races I take part in have changed over the years but the dream remained the same. So, keep the end goal in mind and focus on being your best — your efforts will bring you there one day as long as you put in the work for it.
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