The only time the Singapore juniors had a taste of their regional competition was when they travelled to the ASTC cups in the Philippines, Japan, sometimes Australia.

The biggest stage that the male juniors, Nicholas Rachmadi and Luke Chua, ever competed at was the ITU Junior World Triathlon Championships. By the bike leg, they were in a different league from the rest of their competitors.

The regional cups were more time-trial based as athletes sought points to qualify for higher-ranked competitions. This time, the juniors have a shot to take on the region – with a medal at stake.

Luke Chua leads the bike pack coming into T2. Chua won the SEA Games triathlon mixed relay trial. (Alvin Ho)

Triathlon mixed relay trial – Juniors steal the show

With the trial distance being a 300m swim-7km bike-1km run course, the juniors were tipped to nab the first two spots for the relay. Luke Chua was part of the first pack out the pool, hung onto the lead bike pack with a charging Wille Loo assuming control of the train.

The 18-year-old Chua came into his own in the race when he charged into T2 first and clocked the fastest 1km run of the day to win the trial. He immediately dropped to the ground and shed tears of joy. After a string of disappointing races, Chua’s effort finally paid off.

“I can’t believe what just happened,” said Chua, a former swimmer who converted to multisport three years ago.

“I was hurting on the run, but I just didn’t want to give up. Not now. Not today.”

“I bolted. I didn’t look back. And I won.”

On the women’s side, Herlene Yu proved unstoppable from the get-go as she pulled ahead with every stroke and tumble turn. By the time she exited into T1, she owned a healthy gap of over 30s, which she maintained for the rest of the way.

After crossing the line, Herlene called her oldest sister and current roommate in Australia, Hillary.

“OMG, I did it,” said Herlene, 17.

Herlene credited much of her success to Hillary for arranging her schedule to accommodate her training schedule. She’d gotten one step closer to fulfilling her late grandfather’s dream of seeing her compete for the nation.

Triathlon mixed relay: Luke Chua, Bryce Chong, Herlene Yu, Emma Middleditch.

Emma Middleditch controlled the SEA Games duathlon mixed relay trial from start to finish as she mounted an insurmountable gap no one would challenge. (Alvin Ho)

Duathlon mixed relay trial – Nicholas Rachmadi redeems himself; Women reshuffle from Day 1

After a disappointing first day when Rachmadi had trouble getting into his cleats, he exacted his revenge in the duathlon. In close pursuit of the pack in the first 2km run, he executed his transition smoothly, put in a good 8km bike leg and sailed away in the final 1km run to gap second-placer Ahmad Arif Ibrahim by 9 seconds.

More importantly, he was one step closer to getting to the SEA Games.

“I can’t believe that happened,” said Rachmadi, 18. “I was expecting myself to qualify for the triathlon. The duathlon was totally unexpected.”

While preparing for his second shot at potential SEA Games glory, Rachmadi was still reeling from the day’s disappointment and was trying to keep his nerves under control.

“Ease off. Just treat it like a normal Sunday ride,” said Yu Kok Chew, Herlene’s father.

After resetting his mind, Rachmadi toed the line on the second day with renewed purpose.

“Just gonna be a time trial with my usual training mates,” thought Rachmadi, and proceeded to execute his race plan successfully.

Middleditch controlled the race from the gun as she set a blistering pace within the first run leg to shake the rest of the field. The YOG triathlete would only further the gap from the bike right until the final run leg when she amassed an almost 1-min gap.

Yu, who came into T1 fourth, dusted her remaining rivals with a devastating bike leg as she propelled into second and notched her second SEA Games nomination of the weekend.

Duathlon mixed relay: Nicholas Rachmadi, Ahmad Arif Ibrahim, Emma Middleditch, Herlene Yu.

They’ve still got bigger fish to fry on the ASTC/ITU circuit

After checking off the trials on their to-do list, many of these athletes are headed to Gyeongju to race in the ASTC Triathlon Asian Championships as they bid for an individual slot in the SEA Games triathlon.

2015 SEA Games medalists Wille Loo and Clement Chow seek to firm up their SEA Games slots for the third time running while Danny Lim, Arif Ibrahim, Ethel Lin and Chang Shuwen seek a qualifying time.

For the juniors, it’s their next step to working towards the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Lausanne in end August before they shift their focus to December’s SEA Games.