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Angel athletes offer medical aid to fellow competitors

Publication Date: March 29, 2017 | 
Ironmedic volunteers pose at a marathon March 12 on Liouciou Island off southwestern Taiwan. (Courtesy of Chen Yen-liang)
Ironmedic, a group of altruistic amateur athletes dedicated to providing first aid to fellow participants in marathons, triathlons or cycling events, is on track to become the first organization of its kind in Taiwan to be registered with the government as an association this summer. 
Founded in May 2016, the group is made up of licensed doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians with experience in the above-mentioned race categories. To date it has recruited 117 members, who take part in athletic events but stand ready to provide emergency aid when needed.    
Scattered around Taiwan, these members interact with each other and establish divisions of labor for each competition mainly through the Line messaging app.
According to Ironmedic founder Chen Yen-liang, up to 33 Ironmedic members take part in each competition. Three of them are supervisors, including one who is responsible for ensuring all participating members arrive on time. The remaining two leaders are in charge of medical supplies and also make sure the participating members are evenly distributed among the competitors.        
“I’ve always sought victory in long-distance competitions, but now I’m a changed man. I feel much more fulfilled because of the services I give to others,” said Chen, who is a marathoner, triathlete, certified EMT and university lecturer.  “It’s also great to work with other energetic, big-hearted people.”
Organizers of sporting events usually hire medical personnel to take care of participating athletes, but Chen noted that Ironmedic is different from a traditional medical team. “We’re athletes, so we know what fellow runners or cyclists need if they get injured during a race.”  
Ironmedic volunteers on average give assistance to between 100-200 competitors in events with more than 10,000 participants, Chen said. They provide timely, professional and non-invasive treatment to those with minor ailments, from cramps and flesh wounds to more serious issues like shock and heat exhaustion. In return, event organizers offer the volunteers free entry, though they are not eligible to medal in the events.
Ironmedic’s role is poised to grow as people in Taiwan are increasingly taking part in long-distance races. According to Chen, about 350 to 400 such events take place in Taiwan every year, 80 percent of which are marathons. The group plans to provide services at 62 select races this year, up from 39 in 2016. (OC-E)  
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