Abu dhabi filipino triathlete Romeo "Oreo" Puncia
Romeo “Oreo” Puncia raced as the only Filipino in the Ironman European Championship and Altriman Extreme to help tribes in Palawan. Credits to Romeo Puncia.

Abu Dhabi-based Filipino missionary triathlete Romeo Puncia biked, swam, and ran in back-to-back tough triathlon races in Germany and France to raise funds for tribal missions in Palawan, Philippines.

Romeo Puncia, a Race with a Purpose Advocate, competed in the Ironman European Championship in Frankfurt, Germany on June 30. Just a week later, the Filipino triathlete joined the Altriman Extreme Triathlon in Les Angles, France on July 6.

Despite a narrow recovery period after finishing as the only Filipino in Ironman Frankfurt, Romeo Puncia proceeded to his debut race in the tougher Altriman Extreme as the first United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Filipino to join the competition.

In his race report sent to Good News Pilipinas, Puncia said he was encouraged to race his 3rd full Ironman race after completing the Ultraman Florida in February. “I realized that crazy challenges such as super long distances and extreme triathlons are what I want,” the Filipino triathlete, also known as “Oreo,” said. In April, Puncia also made it through to the finish line of the Ironman African Championship.

Oreo finished the Ironman EU Championships at a relaxed pace with the time of 14:22 hours. He said the Ironman EU race taught him discipline, patience, self-control, and to focus “because honestly, I know I can finish that race in less than 12 hours, but that was not the goal, recovery should be immediate so I can regain the strength that I need for the next tough race.”

Abu dhabi filipino triathlete
Romeo Puncia is the only Filipino to cross the finish line at the 2019 Ultraman EU Championships. Credits to Romeo Puncia.

The next race, the Altriman event, was located in Pyrenees Orientales on the heights of the plateau of Capcir, the city of Angles is at the crossroads of Spain, Andorra and the Mediterranean. Puncia fell ill two days before the tough race and started preparing himself to accept a Did Not Finish (DNF) outcome in the face of extreme cold sea swim course, a cold and hot bike ride through scary downhills, tight turns, a few gravels, winding and narrow roads, and no bike tech, and a 42.2km run with 720m of ascent.

During the first 100km, Romeo Puncia was in the top 30 overall and top 10 in his age group. But before scaling the two toughest mountains in the world’s toughest triathlon, the Filipino missionary athlete took stock of his situation – his failing health, his waiting family, his work with the tribal mission – and decided to not risk his life. Romeo Puncia stopped his race and declared a safe DNF between KM 135-137 and joined the 97 DNF triathletes of the 206-strong Altriman racers. Romeo Puncia ended the Altriman Extreme at rank 175.

The 32-year-old Filipino triathlete who started racing in triathlons only in 2016 said, “I realized why a lot of athletes even the professional ones that I followed sometimes declare DNF during their race event, they are just being wise and brave.”

“I know there are more races and challenges to come,” Romeo Puncia confidently said.

Puncia is an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who works in the UAE as an emergency medical technician. Just before the June race, Puncia was given a nursing award by the UAE Nurses Association.

Racing in both triathlons enabled the missionary athlete to raise Php50,000 to buy sports equipment for the indigenous communities of Palawan’s Tribal Sports Festival which will be held this coming October 27 to 31, 2019.

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