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Post-Race Update

The Awards Banquet

It was a night of great celebration as more than 300 people—spanning competitors, international and local volunteers, staff, family and friends — gathered by the poolside of the Grand Hotel in the center of Antsiranana / Diego Suarez. Everyone converged at 7:30pm to celebrate the conclusion of the Roving Race.

The evening opened with a special ‘thank you’ to the more than 100 staff members and volunteers who have made this event in northern Madagascar happen. They include the hardworking and supportive cast of volunteers—many of whom already have a number of races under their belts. There was also the all-star medical team from the United States, a highly experienced course team, and the hard-working Malagasy teams who set the campsites up every day astonishingly quickly.

Medals were then bestowed upon race champions.

Great applause was given to racing star, Ryan Sandes of South Africa, who earned a gold medal for his sixth time in a RacingThePlanet event. There was equally strong applause for newcomer, Maki Izuchi Suban of Japan, who won the women’s division.

Fellow Japanese competitor Wataru Iino was then awarded his silver medal, coming second overall in this, his first RacingThePlanet challenge.

Second placed female was yet another racer hailing from Japan, freelance photographer Mayumi Watanabe who is based in Tokyo.

Coming in third position overall was America’s Ralph Crowley, a 29-year old who was putting in his fourth attempt at a 4 Deserts series race here and wowed the field with his strong performance. Third-placed woman was Susan Riggio, also of the United States.

Then came the awards for the age categories. Peter Fleck, a 24-year old from South Africa, was the winner of the 29 and under, while Canada’s Melissa V. Gosse won the women’s age group gold.

In the 30-39 age range, James Tyrrell emerged as champion—another South African who works as a game ranger. The women’s winner in this category was Echo Gong of Hong Kong, a newcomer to the series.

In the 40-49 range, New Zealander Aaron Heather won the category, with Margot Watters of the United States claiming women’s victory.

The 4 Deserts Club member Nicola Benetti of Italy was champion of the 50-59 age group, with French competitor Isabelle Dufour winning the women’s division.

Finally, Roland Breitenmoser of Switzerland won the 60-69 age range, with another experienced 4 Deserts racer, Robyn Metcalfe of the United States, claiming women’s gold.

The special awards were then given out to those competitors who have made a strong impression on all involved in this year’s Roving Race.

The Spirit Award was given to Lorence Johnston, a Brit based in Hong Kong, who took part in his first race in the 4 Deserts Race Series here in Madagascar. Lorence stood out for his positivity throughout the race, making checkpoint staff sing, writing a fabulous blog, entertaining fellow competitors and generally enjoying the experience tremendously—and infectiously transmitting that enjoyment to all around him.

The Sportsmanship Award was given to Linyan Huang (also know as Ella) who despite her injured elbow mid-way through the race, kept going. She put in an amazing performance as the leading lady on the first stage—and was one of the last ones to finish on Stage 5 due to her injury. Yet, despite being competitive, she never thought of quitting. Ella came third in the Gobi March 2013 and was a volunteer in RacingThePlanet: Iceland 2013.

Once the awards were given out, a lively evening ensued in Diego Suarez with many celebrating until the morning hours. Madagascar has been an amazing host country for the 2014 Roving Race and continues to impress many participants who are still traveling in the country. The race has been a chance for a cultural exchange between the Western world and this remote island on the African coast. The local Malagasy have been thrilled to meet visitors from over 40 countries, while experiencing the Malagasy way of life has provided a break and an inspiration for the race participants from their technology-powered, modern lives.

By Clare Morin

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