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(E) Fifth year success for Croatia's Mljet Triathlon
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  10/29/2005 | Tourism | Unrated
(E) Fifth year success for Croatia's Mljet Triathlon


Fifth year success for Croatia's Mljet Triathlon

by Jeff Henderson
IT Interactive Editor
This report filed October 25, 2005

Mljet Island, Croatia - The lovely island of Mljet played host to the fifth annual Mljet Half Iron Triathlon just over two weeks ago. Although Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, a half-decade of bitter fighting left the country war-weary and eager to achieve peace. In 1998, integration of separatist territories was finally completed under UN supervision, and two years later the Mljet Triathlon was born - a celebration of sport and human spirit in the wake of turmoil.

Mljet is a lovely island in the Adriatic Sea, the body of clear, turquoise water which separates Croatia from Italy. Croatia is home to dozens of national parks, many of them perched on the hundreds of islands fanning out from the coastline. The Mljet Triathlon has made its home in the National Park Mljet, on the northwestern end of skinny Mljet Island. The island, only reachable from mainland Croatia by ferry from the capital city of Dubrovnik and tourist charter boats from Kor?ula, Hvar, and Split, is known for inland salt lakes, rich, unspoiled forests, and collapsed caves facing the south sea.

On Oct. 2 Mljet welcomed 64 individuals and seven relay teams from eight countries for one of the most demanding races in the Balkan region. With the water temperature 22°C and the air 24°C, ideal conditions awaited the participants. For a small race, the total prize purse of €14,000 signified the dedication of the organizers to supporting its athletes.

The race owes its difficulty to the rugged terrain of the island. The bike course features two loops and 1,890 meters of ascent, and the run course subjects athletes to 400 meters of stairs at the beginning and end of each of the two loops. The elevation has its merits, though, affording views of the island and sea beyond to those who make the climb.

The women's defending champion, Svetlana Brkic from Serbia, handily claimed another title, defeating Ireland's Elena Maslova and Hungary's Fatima Kovacs. The men's winner from 2004 was not so blessed, however. Dejan Patrcevik, defending champ, took the lead in the early stages of the bike but could not hold onto it during the run, Hungarian Gyula Kis finagled the upset on the second loop of the run to take first by 14 seconds. Six minutes later, Tomas Korinek from the Czech Republic claimed third.

The relay division was won by the team led by Ana Srsen, a well-known Croatian disabled athlete who took fourth in the 400m freestyle at the 2004 Summer Para-Olympic Games, in Athens, and is a world championship bronze medalist in the 5k run and marathon. In the wake of her dominating swim skills, her team has won Mljet in each of the last two years. According to organizers, participating in local triathlons and other races is one way Srsen supports her fellow physically challenged athletes.

The next edition will be held October 8, 2006.

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