In the world of Triathlon, the Ironman 70.3 in Cebu is one of the most-anticipated races of the year, known for its fiesta atmosphere, packed event schedule with fun for all, and unbeatable Philippine hospitality. But there is one more reason the race is so well-regarded, and that is the finisher medals and trophies that have been designed by internationally-renowned artist Kenneth Cobonpue.
Traditionally unveiled at the “Meet the Pros” session held at the Shangri-La Mactan, the reveal of the medals and trophies is a high point for competitors and media alike, who flock to see what sort of artwork is at stake. The pieces crafted by Cobonpue and his team are pieces of art, handmade to exacting standards and an eye for detail.
Speaking at the 2015 unveiling, Cobonpue said, “It’s very difficult to design this year after year, to design unique medals that’s worthy of all your efforts.”
Despite this, he and his team have delivered every year since 2012, ensuring that every finisher doesn’t just leave Cebu with his or her memories, they go home with a work of art worthy of the experience.
Cobonpue’s involvement with IronMan 70.3 began in 2012 at the behest of Alaska Milk Corporation President, CEO, and all-around sports patron Wilfred Uytengsu, who approached the artist to craft a medal that would be unique in the word of triathlon. Uytengsu challenged him to indulge his creative energies while paying tribute to the spirit of the event and its participants, while making something that was uniquely Cebuano.
As Cobonpue himself said, “Other events just have loops or plates. Even the world championships give a piece of metal with names.”
In order to stand out, Cobonpue avoided conventional notions of medals, creating a piece that depicted the triathlon’s swim, bike, and run components in a series of concentric circles.
The following year, Cobonpue was more ambitious. He retained the idea of the three sports looping around each other, but opted for a more stylized approach, focusing on elements from each, rather than literal depictions. For swim, there was a wave, with a bike tire forming the other half of the looping sculpture’s top, while the road, complete with lane markers, made up the lower half, representing the run.
In 2014, a more naturalist approach was taken, with each medal being hewn from a piece of bamboo, rather than the metal that came before. As in 2012, tiny figures represented the three sports; this time shown traversing over, through, and out of the bamboo. Cobonpue said that it was a translation of the race’s theme where, “Only the extraordinary can outrace themselves.’ Cobonpue said his inspiration of extraordinary beings emerging from bamboo came from the Philippine creation myth of “Malakas” and “Maganda”.
The 2015 edition of the medal was an elegant affair, carved from cast resin, cast stone, and brass. Originally conceived to be made from precious fossilized coral native to Mactan, Cobonpue said this plan was abandoned when he learned the material was illegal to mine. The dark stone that made up the base of the piece was accented with miniature gold-plated figures depicting the three sports as they emerged from the sea to make their way to the top.
“At the end of the race, you feel that you own the hill so I wanted to design a small hill,” said Cobonpue, referring to the “summit” that every racer seeks to conquer.
“Our inspiration this time is the heart,” said Cobonpue of this year’s piece. I know that when you run the race and you feel like giving up, you’re in this dark place, and it’s your heart that keeps you going,” said Cobonpue.
Representing the heart and the 3 sports that comprise triathlon, the medal for 2016 was a dynamic sculpted piece designed as an interpretation of the human heart and its importance to every IronMan competitor.