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Schoeman is SA’s best in Japan with fourth spot

Schoeman

By Mark Etheridge

Rio bronze medallist Henri Schoeman was pipped for the last podium place at the World Triathlon Series race in Yokohama, Japan, at the weekend.

Schoeman ended fourth in 1hr 48min 29sec as Fernando Alonso and Fernando Alarza made it a Spanish 1-2  in 1:48:15 and 1:48:23 respectively.

Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt edged out Schoeman by three seconds to take the bronze medal.

Further down the field Wian Sullwald was South Africa’s second finisher in 1:50:11 for 13th spot.

And in the women’s race, two-time Olympian Gill Sanders had a rough time of it in the swim and ended up withdrawing during the cycle leg.

Yokohama will always have fond memories for Schoeman as it’s the race where he had his biggest breakthrough on the WTS circuit back in 2013, and where his breakthrough run occurred in 2016.

‘This time out, it was a really cold day and made racing tough without a wetsuit swim and rain on the bike and run. We waited a while on the pontoon before the start and from there I just struggled to get going.’

Swimming is usually Schoeman’s forté, but although he was only five seconds off the pace on this occasion, he wasn’t happy.

‘I had a dismal swim, but close enough to the front. And then I just couldn’t get my legs going on the bike, so I tried working hard on the front which didn’t help much either. Positioning was key during the bike, as many athletes were not cautious enough and crashing, which could end one’s day if you weren’t in the front.

‘I think I raced really well. I was up near the front and missed two big crashes by the width of my tire. I soon knew my form is in good shape on the run, even though my feet were completely numb and my Achilles tendons feeling like they were about to snap.

‘It was a tough battle for second third and fourth. I’m really disappointed I got pipped in the last 100m, I just couldn’t get on to my toes in the final sprint. But still, I’m really happy with my form,’

Schoeman now heads for Font Romeu in France for three weeks of altitude training before the World Cup in Cagliari and the WTS in Leeds.

As for Sullwald, now starting to find his form of old after a series of mishaps set him back, he was involved in one of those crashed mentioned by Schoeman.

Surprisingly for a competitor who seems to get an inordinate amount of respiratory infections, he loves the cold and wet. ‘This time was really wet and windy… just the way I love it. I don’t know why, but I always seem to thrive under those conditions.’

Sullwald went into the race on a good block of training at home in Bela Bela.

‘I was really in perfect shape. I pushed hard on the first lap of the swim to get near the front and then eased off and took it calmly. I wanted to stay quite fresh as I really wanted to hammer it on the bike.

‘I got into the lead group and was riding really hard, pushing the limits and Henri was also taking some good turns in front.

‘It’s been a while since I’ve been in front of the bike and able to string the pack out and it felt good.’

And then came the defining moment of his race. ‘Going into the last corner, a kilometre from transition, some Japanese guy I hadn’t seen before came flying past me, lost control, sliding all over the place, and took me down with him.

‘I jumped up and tried to race as hard as I could, but I felt immediately there was something not right and I saw my frame had snapped [see picture below] so I really had to nurse my way to transition.

I then had two choice, I could quit and just jog the 10km or dig deep and try and keep up my fairly high ranking.

‘So I just kept calm and ran pretty hard (although not as hard as I would have if there was a chance of wining) and I made up some good numbers on the run.’

Sullwald has now improved his ranking by sixth position to eighth, just reward for hanging in. ‘My run was one of the quickest of the day [11th] and I really felt it could have been my race to lose. I was definitely in contention for the podium before my crash.

Now back in Bela Bela and sporting multiple bruising, he’s motivated for his next challenge. ‘I’m getting a new bike from Merida, my bike sponsor, today already, they are really on the ball.’ His next race is a World Cup event in France, this weekend.

As for Sanders, her problems came early on in the swim where she was swum over and got into major difficulties (see video).

 

 

‘Things got completely out of control,’ said Sanders. ‘I was really angry and frustrated. I got swum over again and again until I was almost drowning and got spat out towards the back. An Italian girl was the instigator and it messed up my whole race. There’s absolutely nothing you can do in such a situation.

‘Contact in our sport is most definitely part of our sport, but this looked more than that. I went on and did six laps of the bike, but was just so far off the pace.’

Sanders does intend taking things further. ‘Rachel Klamer [SA triathlete Richard Murray’s Dutch girlfriend]  is on the Athletes’ Committee, so she will raise it with them and I’ll be in touch with the Italian coach just to let them know my thoughts.

‘It’s just so frustrating. I had clear water in front of me so it’s not like I had to stop for anyone in front of me. It’s like being given out in cricket when you’re not really out, except that in cricket you’re not fighting for air to stay alive.’

Sanders is now back in London where she’s considering a World Cup in Cagliari on 4 June, but she’s a definite starter for the WTS in Leeds a week later.

Picture of Schoeman courtesy of ITU and that of Sullwald courtesy of Viviane’s Logbooklet


 


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