When Norwegian triathlete Gustav Iden was crowned 2019 Ironman 70.3 world champion in Nice, the last thing he could have imagined was becoming a household name in Taiwan.
Most Taiwanese cared little about Ironman events or even knew what they involved, and it made no difference to them that with his win in France at the age of 23, he became the youngest-ever Ironman world champion.
However, what did catch their attention was the baseball cap he wore as he crossed the finish line in Nice. It showed the name of a Taoist temple in Changhua County in Chinese characters, making him a local star and the cap from Puyan Shunze Temple (埔鹽順澤宮) a must-have.
The temple, which honors Xuantian Shangdi (玄天上帝, Emperor of the Mysterious Heaven), one of the higher-ranking Taoist deities, made only 500 caps to give to worshipers for free in 2019, but had to make 370,000 more to meet demand since Iden was seen wearing it in Nice in September 2019.
Iden said he found the cap on the ground in Japan before the Tokyo Olympics test event earlier in 2019.
“Just thought it looked cool, so I cleaned it up and started to use it,” he said in an interview after winning the race in France.
However, what has prompted the craze for the temple cap in Taiwan goes beyond what it looks like or that a foreign athlete wore it; it is in high demand because of the supposed luck it brought the Norwegian ironman.
Including his breakout win in Nice, Iden has won all 10 races in which he wore the temple’s cap.
His latest win while wearing the cap came in the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii in October — a 225km journey comprised of a 3.8km swim, a 180km bike ride and a 42km run — that Iden completed in a record time of 7 hours, 40 minutes and 24 seconds.
At the Tokyo Olympics triathlon, a shorter race with a 1.5km swim, a 40km cycle and a 10km run, Iden was not wearing the hat and he finished eighth.
Coincidence? Who is to say, but giving the Puyan Shunze Temple gods all the credit for Iden’s exploits might be stretching it.
Leading up to the Nice win in 2019, Iden had World Cup wins in Lausanne and Weihai, a second-place finish at an Ironman 70.3 event in Bahrain in 2018 and high finishes at triathlon events in 2019, so he was an ascending athlete in the sport.
However, many Taiwanese have embraced the story of the good-luck cap, and when Iden was invited by Changhua County to visit the temple later in 2019, he was greeted like a rock star.
He was also named an honorary citizen of Changhua during that trip for bringing the county international attention.
Recalling that visit, Iden, who is in Taiwan for the week, said on Friday that the experience was “overwhelming.”
“We visited a town hall where I saw way, way, more people than I thought was going to be there. Just the whole experience, the first time was like a hurricane.”
Iden and his training partner Kristian Blummenfelt, who won Olympic gold in the Tokyo triathlon, are visiting Taiwan at the invitation of Iden’s sponsor, Taiwan-based bicycle designer and maker Giant Manufacturing.
During their stay, the two visited Pingtung as special guests for an Ironman race before a visit to the Puyan Shunze Temple today, and are to leave Taiwan tomorrow.
Born in Bergen, Norway, in 1996, Iden has had tremendous success in the sport over the past three years, with Ironman 70.3 world titles in 2019 and last year, and the Ironman world title this year.
However, his first taste of real fame came in Taiwan thanks to the lucky cap, he said.
“Actually, back home, I feel like people don’t really know who I am, but here, I have more fans than in Norway,” he said.
When he was in a taxi on Friday, his Taiwanese helpers told the driver that Iden was the man famous for wearing the Changhua temple cap, and the driver immediately responded by saying they knew who he was, Iden said.
His fame has reached other parts of the world. During the October race in Hawaii, Iden said he saw many others in the race wearing the same cap, and it made him happy to see that his story was uniting people.
“For me, it’s like a symbol of tribes, and it’s reaching all around the world,” he said.
The lucky cap also gave him the chance to sign with Giant.
“Ever since I learned that the cap was from Taiwan, I thought it was so natural for me to sign with Giant. It’s been a fairy tale and, yeah, we’ve grown so much together since.”
Although it seems the cap has given him so much, Iden said he did not believe in an outside supernatural power.
“It is crazy how I never lost with it, but I think the superpower kind of comes from believing in yourself,” he said.
He said he feels that everyone has that power within themselves, and they just need something extra to help draw it out of them, “whether it comes from a lucky hat or a bracelet or whatever.”
“I hope my hat can bring some superpowers from within to many people,” he said.
HOT-SPRING RETREAT: A hotel in Japan incurred a loss of about US$1,846 after a Taiwanese man failed to show up for his reservation due to a misunderstood message A Taiwanese man who failed to show up for a hotel reservation in Japan has apologized and offered compensation, the hotel said yesterday. The man, surnamed Lee (李), reserved a room at the Yufuin Tsubaki hot-spring hotel in Oita for the Lunar New Year holiday, but failed to show up on Friday. Lee yesterday called the hotel to apologize and offered to compensate the losses caused by his failure to show up, a hotel employee surnamed Yashiro said. Lee’s wife also called on Sunday to apologize, she said. Lee had booked a two-night stay with upscale seafood and beef meals, the hotel said. His
Two Taiwanese Americans were among those killed in a mass shooting at a dance studio in Monterey Park, California, on Saturday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles (TECO LA) said it contacted local authorities, who confirmed that two of the 11 killed in the shooting were Taiwanese Americans. “TECO LA conveys our heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families, and sends our prayers to the injured for a speedy recovery,” it said in a statement. The office said it is assisting the relatives of one of the victims to travel from
A senior US senator on Monday questioned the willingness of some US allies to help defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion. Although Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) expects the US and Japan to respond in a war in the Taiwan Strait, he was “a little less confident what our other allies would do,” US Senator John Cornyn said. Australia and New Zealand have voiced support for Taiwan, but it “is a far cry from committing troops to repel an invasion,” Cornyn said during a discussion on China, Russia and the state of US military readiness at a forum hosted
Whisky connoisseurs are a rapidly growing demographic in Taiwan, driving prices ever higher as collectors vie for the most coveted editions. Although not a new pastime, whisky collection has been picking up steam in recent years. According to the Scotch Whisky Association, Taiwan was the third-largest buyer of Scotch whisky in 2021 in monetary terms. One collector, surnamed Fu (傅), said there are many types of whisky that are ripe for collecting. One that has skyrocketed in price in recent years is the Macallan 12-year-old Gran Reserva, which bears a striking purple label, said Fu, who has more than 10 years of experience as