WATCH: How Ironman darling Mendez fell in love with PH
LAPU-LAPU CITY, Philippines – Despite the numerous selfies and swooning from fans, elite triathlete Mauricio Mendez will never forget the first group of Filipinos who warmly welcomed him to the Philippines.
"The first time I came here, I went to Albay for XTERRA race, and I became close to a family who sent a message to me on Facebook," recalled Mendez, the 2018 Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific champion.
"They wanted to meet me and have dinner [in their] house and I went, and that’s one of the most beautiful experiences I ever had. After the race, they got a little private party for me and I got second place, I didn’t even win."
Unfortunately, the family from Albay wasn't around in Cebu to witness the Mexican clinch his first Asia-Pacific title. Even with his rising popularity, Mendez reminds them that they will never be forgotten in his heart.
"They are sometimes afraid that I’ll forget them and I want to tell them that I’ll never forget that, and they’ll always be in my prayers and that’s great," added Mendez.
At 22 years old, Mendez conqured the elite ranks as he secured the 70.3 titles in Davao and Cebu this year. The Mexican breasted the tape after 3 hours, 46 minutes and 44 seconds on Sunday, August 5 in Cebu. (READ: Mendez, Kahlefeldt clinch Ironman 70.3 Asia-Pacific titles)
Just moments after his winning run, the 2016 XTERRA champion disclosed that he's already eyeing his first world title in the 113-km Ironman race in the upcoming 2018 South Africa Ironman 70.3 world championships.
But this won't stop Mendez from coming back to the Philippines – a country that treats him like a family.
"I feel like a brother, I feel you’re like my family because it’s just the support and good vibes and everything, and I actually feel loved and that’s pretty cool."– Rappler.com