In a remarkable showcase of skill and endurance at the 2023 Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship in Langkawi, Malaysia, Australian professional triathletes and married couple, Ashleigh Gentle and Josh Amberger, secured the women’s and men’s titles respectively.
Gentle and Amberger, based in Brisbane, celebrated their marriage nearly a year ago. This championship marks the first event where both partners not only competed together but also victoriously shared the spotlight, each winning their respective races.
Having been actively participating on the triathlon circuit for over a decade, the pair has shared numerous race experiences together in the past two years. "Taking two titles to one household in Australia feels pretty good,” Gentle commented post-race.
Training under the same coach, the couple spends a significant portion of their day together, fine-tuning their athletic prowess and supporting each other’s professional growth, as noted by Amberger.
The competition observed Gentle delivering an exceptional performance across swim, bike, and run. Finishing with a time of 4:10:17, she secured her win nearly six minutes ahead of New Zealand’s Amelia Watkinson, with Lottie Lucas from the UAE completing the women’s podium in third place.
Gentle was a mere three seconds behind Julie Iemmolo from France during the initial 1.9 km swim. Despite Watkinson taking an early lead in the bike, Gentle, Lucas, and Iemmolo maintained close proximity, establishing themselves as the lead group for the 90 km bike portion. Gentle eventually exerted her dominance during the run, pulling away decisively from Watkinson and claiming her second Ironman 70.3 title of the year.
In the men's race, Amberger’s victory mirrored Gentle’s commanding performance. Leading the swim, Amberger and a group of seven or eight other male competitors navigated through the challenging course. Following a minor incident involving French athlete Anthony Costes, the lead group recalibrated their strategies, resulting in Amberger and a few others launching successful attacks during the final 30 km of the bike race.
Taking the lead 11 to 12 km into the run, Amberger maintained and then extended his advantage, ultimately clinching the title with a time of 3:50:47. He finished over a minute ahead of New Zealand's Mike Phillips, with fellow Australian Kurt McDonald securing the third spot.
In addition to celebrating their victories, the top three finishers in both the men's and women's categories also qualified for the 2024 Ironman 70.3 World Championship set to take place in Taupō, New Zealand.
This year's championship in Langkawi was notably significant for the triathlon community in the region. It marked Malaysia’s debut as host of the Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific Championship, and it was the first time since 2019 that professional athletes competed in the country. The event, set against the stunning and challenging landscape of Langkawi Island, undoubtedly provided a memorable backdrop for the athletes and spectators alike.