It’s been an amazing first Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship here today at the Laguna Phuket in Thailand. The sun that has been hiding away all week came out, the rain clouds disappeared and the triathlon stars shone with both the favorite male and female athletes taking the title.

Pre-race favourite American Timothy O’Donnell did not disappoint. Despite admitting he had been feeling a little off color since arriving on Wednesday, he was hoping to put up a fight and is clearly glad he made the trip. 

“It really worked out well. I just stuck to my plan of going out hard and getting some separation, and then it was about, out of sight out of mind.”

O’Donnell has never swum in two bodies of water in a race situation before.

“I have never actually heard of it before until I came here,” O’Donnell says of the swim. “It worked well and I got a gap on the second lap.”

O’Donnell clearly enjoyed the bike and his lead was never contended. “It was good being up front. I like riding by myself and I got in a good rhythm, didn’t have to worry about jockeying for position and just had a good time.”

The pedestrian bridge added a real unique element to the race, today. Before the start a lot of people wondered just how it would play out, but the reports are that it just added to the fun of racing here in Phuket, Thailand.

“I had a good time going over the pedestrian bridge it was kind of like a cyclo-cross race and I just threw the bike over my shoulder and ran up there with my shoes on. It wasn’t slippery, and I think I actually made some time on the guys,” says O’Donnell.

Records were never going to be broken today, and even a sub-four hour time looked impossible, but O’Donnell ducked under the mark with his 3:59:42.

A unique finish line experience for the winners here at the Laguna Phuket is crossing the line with a baby elephant. “I think the elephant liked me, I got attacked a little there coming across the line.”

And now ODonnell has had such a special experience here in Asia, will he be coming back for more? “Oh, I will definitely come back next year; I wish all races were as well organized as this. The whole trip has been unbelievable, it’s flawless, Debbie and Roman from Laguna Phuket have really taken care of us, and Murphy with WTC have set the bar over here in Asia. Now its time to relax and enjoy the off season,” he says.

I hazard a guess that will start with a Singha beer.

Steffen takes the day 

She was runner up at the Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona back in October and has three 70.3 titles to her name in 2010. Now make that four 70.3 titles, because Caroline Steffen is unbeaten this year at this distance. Today the women’s favorite proved just why she was clearly the woman to beat as she powered her way away from the ladies to catch up with many of the men on this extremely technical and challenging bike course.

“It was the hardest course this year, by far,” she says. “There where times I thought I wouldn’t make it (up the hill), I wanted to cry,” she admits. “But after the hills it was very weird, my legs changed and I felt really very strong.” 

Steffen finished 12th overall today. Out on the run Steffen had some support in the voice of her teamTBB coach Brett Sutton. It was no real secret and no rocket science in what he was shouting out to his number one charge. “He said, ‘don’t be stupid. Get the calories in early and stay cool and stay strong.’”

It certainly has been a whirlwind year of successes for Swiss star Steffen. After letting her hair down at the awards tonight she flies off to Singapore tomorrow. Then it’s off to her homeland of Switzerland, where she has been nominated for the Credit Suisse Sports Awards, which will be aired live on television on December 12th.

“The focus was all about today. I am excited about next week, but today I had a job to do. Now I can relax and look forward to next weekend,” she says.

Still undecided about what dress she will be wearing tonight at the awards, one thing is for sure, Steffen is going to paint the town pink, her favorite color.

Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship
Laguna Phuket, Thailand
December 5, 2010

Top 5 Pro Women

1. Car|oline Steffen (SUI) 04:20:13
2. Melissa Rollison (AUS) 04:24:53
3. Belinda Granger (AUS) 04:30:49
4. Michelle Wu (AUS) 04:32:13
5. Samantha McGlone (CAN) 04:36:52

Top 5 Pro Men

1. Timothy O’Donnell (USA) 3:59:42
2. Massimo Cigana (ITA) 4:01:52
3. Hideo Fukui (JPN) 4:04:00
4. Domenico Passuello (ITA) 4:06:51
5. Chris Legh (AUS) 4:07:25