Five fit chicks who will kick your butt

Jinhwa Kim
Photo: Lloyd Belcher

Across Asia, more and more women are turning on to the outdoors, and showing they have the aptitude and the attitude to compete with even the best of men.

Jinhwa Kim
Photo: Lloyd Belcher

Jinhwa Kim
Hong Kong Multisport racer

Originally from Korea, Kim has lived in Hong Kong for five years and took up trail running in 2010. “I was told there was this group called Hong Kong Trailrunners. This was an eye-opener for me since I had never thought of running on trail. Like many people, I considered trails something you slowly tread on with a heavy backpack stuffed with yummy picnic snacks.”

Since then her naturally adventurous frame of mind has led her to further challenges, often taken on with friends from that same trailrunning group. That has culminated in teaming up with Frenchman Romain Riche, with whom she recently won one of Action Asia Events’ Kayak n’ Run races, where they beat a number of experienced all-male multisport teams.

Kim confesses to talking to herself to stay focused while racing, often philosophising about the role racing plays in her life: “One of the things I keep reminding myself of during a race is that this is the basic and minimum ‘price’ I must pay to feel good about myself and my performance after the race, no matter what the result is. I also think about my life as well. If I put up with this much physical discomfort to avoid any tiny injury to my ego during the race, I should remember the price I need to continue to pay to keep my ego intact for the rest of my life outside of racing.”

As for thoughts of what comes next, she says: “I would like to find a way to be a role model for women, especially those who happen to be born into some sort of conservative culture where sport is not encouraged for females, since I experience the benefits it can bring to an individual in living life much more fully.”

Mieko Carey

Mieko Carey
Guam Offroad triathlete

Born in Japan, 35-year-old Carey has lived in Micronesia since 2003, first on Saipan and now on Guam where she works as a personal trainer and pilates instructor. She did her first triathlon in 2005, moving to the Xterra offroad-tri format the following year.

“I didn’t have any idea about triathlon until I moved to Saipan. It looked scary as many people came to the finish line with dirt or blood. I didn’t think I could do it but in 2006 I tried myself and I won my age group. I loved it! It reminded me of when I was a kid and played in nature.”

Since that time, top-five finishes in regional Xterra races have become almost second nature to her. Most satisfying of all, Carey has three Xterra Japan titles to her name, along with two top 20 finishes in the Xterra Worlds.

Nilbie Blancada

Nilbie Blancada
Philippines Surfer

Water was always Blancada’s element. “I was born very close to the Cloud 9 break – on some days we could hear the waves when we woke up,” says the 21-year-old native of the eastern island of Siargao.

“I started surfing because of my sister Nildie. She went surfing everyday, and every time I went with her I saw people surfing and I wanted to be like them.”

By the age of 14, she was paddling out to join the local and international crowd on the wave.

Seven years on, she is not only like them, she is beating them too. Rated as one of the best natural women’s talents in Asia, her aim is to one day turn pro and she is already on the way, competing in the Asian Surfing Championships and recently signing up as an ambassador for Roxy in her home country.

Claire Price
Photo: Lloyd Belcher

Claire Price
Hong Kong Trail runner 

By Catharine Nicol

Among Asia’s most successful runners of either sex, Price has numerous podium places to her name but that’s not what motivates her.

“While it’s nice to get a good result, the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the race and the company – camaraderie and the beauty of the landscape is really key in distance running,” she says.

The same relaxed attitude applies to training: “I’m not strictly disciplined when it comes to diet and training – I eat a bit of everything, enjoy my wine and I try to listen to my body. If I’m feeling under the weather or exhausted, I won’t force myself to train . . . My training is never very focused or structured. I just get out and run, doing more long runs leading up to big races. I also cross-train – mountain biking, spinning, yoga and my latest sport, surf-skiing.

As for race day: “It‘s important to try to stay calm. I think self-doubt can be very negative – worrying about where the competition is, rather than running your own race.”

'Fon' Benyapa Jantawan

‘Fon’ Benyapa Jantawan
Thailand Kiter

Local names being tricky for foreigners, Thailand’s best-known female kiter has adopted a nickname – or two. Fon is the usual shorthand but in terms of pronunciation, ‘Fawn’ is closer.

Either way, the 29-year-old, who took up the sport in 2008, has since made a habit of getting in among the top three.

After competing on the PKRA (Professional Kiteboard Rider’s Association) tour in 2010 and 2011, she moved to the KTA (Kiteboard Tour Asia) circuit where she has piled up the points.

Though she professes to be a speedster, finishing second overall on last season’s tour in course racing, she also registered a win in the freestyle discipline. AA


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Piling trail on trail | KTA: A roundup of the 2013 season | Road warriors: The wild bunch