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A warm welcome back to the Asian Skyrunning Championships

Reaching the sky is always worth the view, here from the top of Lantau Island, Hong Kong, 2023 Asian Skyrunning Championsips venue. ©Sunny Lee

The 2023 season promises a happy ending with the return of the Asian Skyrunning Championships on Lantau Island in Hong Kong, China on Saturday, December 2, 2023.

The fourth edition of the Asian Skyrunning Championships will see official teams participate from ISF member – Hong Kong, Japan, Philippines and, new entry, Mongolia, who made an impressive launch on the international skyrunning stage this year.

Saturday will host both events: the Lantau 27K with 1,922m vertical climb for the SKY discipline and the Lantau 50, 54 km long with 3,240m vertical climb for the SKYULTRA.

The Championships are also open to runners from across Asia who will join the official teams in the battle for the 12 medals at stake. Among them, Nepali Sunmaya Budha, 2016 SKYULTRA gold medallist who will take on the shorter SKY distance this year.  “I’m excited to be back in Hong Kong after a break from racing while rehabbing. Most importantly I’m enjoying my running again and hope to make Nepal proud,” Budha commented.

The SKYULTRA reaches 1,922m altitude above the S China sea. Here, Dai Matsumoto, President of Japan Skyrunning. © Sunny Lee

Aiming for medals in the SKY race is a strong Japanese contingent: Ryunosuke Omi, who took a double gold and a silver at the 2022 Youth World Championships promises to be a top contender for the podium. “I mainly train at Mt. Atago in Kyoto – intervals, long runs, etc. This will be my first participation in the Asian Skyrunning Championships,” said Omi. “It will be my last international race this year, so I’ll do my best to end the year perfectly. My objective is to win the race and thanks to all for the support!

Takako Takamura returns on the course where she took a gold medal in 2017, hoping to replicate the result. Takamura also took a fifth place in the 2022 Skyrunning World Championships proving her world-class status. “It will be my first time in Hong Kong since the Asian Championships in 2016. Since it’s going be my last overseas race of the year, I want to give it all. I usually train in Tokyo before work, running on a track or on a treadmill in a low-oxygen room. On my days off, sometimes I go climbing in the mountains in Nagano. Earlier this season I often participated in races in Japan or overseas so thanks to all for the support!

New revelation Shoma Otagiri placed seventh in the Skyrunner® World Series final ranking thanks to an outright victory and two podiums. For sure, he will be one of the top contenders in the SKYULTRA.

Mongolia will no doubt represent some hot competition after taking two gold medals in the Skyrunning Youth Championships and two bronze in the recent Stairclimbing World Championships in Osaka, Japan.  The challenge, however, will be even harder for the Mongolians given the enormous temperature range between the two countries – based on current forecasts, around 50°C!

The Mongolian team on their way to Hong Kong for the Asian Skyrunning Championships – their first. © Skyrunning Mongolia

I’ve endured extreme weather in my training, between -10° to -20” said Gantulga Myagmarjav who trains in Uvs Province in Western Mongolia. “I’m so happy to compete in the Lantau mountains representing my country as a Mongolian skyrunner. For me, all of this is new – a new road, new people and my first skyrunning competition. As I’m young I’ll do my best and I’m interested to see what my result will be among the other Asian skyrunning athletes,” said Myagmarjav who is entering the 27km SKY.

With less stress for the warm temperatures in Hong Kong, Maynard Encornal will represent the Philippines. “Since this is my first time competing internationally, I try to keep things positive by reminding myself that it’s all simply for fun and for an amazing experience,” said Encornal flying in from Manila where the temperatures are a little warmer than Hong Kong.

Hong Kong local Flora Ching a strong athlete competing in the 27km SKY will be someone to watch out for having placed second overall in the previous HK50. “I always enjoy Lantau – such a nice course with great views, but technical and challenging at the same time

It’s a welcome come-back to the Asian Skyrunning Championships after a four-year absence due to the social unrest in 2019 and, the following years, as a consequence of covid and related travel restrictions. In 2018, the Philippines came out on top followed by Hong Kong, Japan and Nepal. With competition coming from newbie Mongolia, the medal distribution and country ranking could have some surprises in store.

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