South Africa’s new Commonwealth Games triathlon champion Henri Schoeman realised in Bermuda this weekend that he has a big target on his back, writes MARK ETHERIDGE.
Schoeman lined up on the back of a glorious Gold Coast victory but could only end up eighth in Bermuda, the first ever WTS event to be held on the island.
And there wasn’t any better news for South Africa’s other entrant, two-time Olympian Richard Murray, who was forced to pull out with a back injury.
Schoeman clocked 1hr 56min 24sec for the combined 1,500-metre swim, 40km cycle and 10km run.
That was 1min 37sec behind Norway’s Casper Stornes as the Scandinavian nation raced to a historic clean sweep of the podium.
‘Strange things happen in the Bermuda Triangle,’ was Schoeman’s wry take on his race to Team SA. ‘It was a day of trying to be [good] and not being “smart”.
‘I can say I thought that I left it all out there on Saturday and I wore my golden No 1 with pride. I tried my best to keep the racing honest in the swim and throughout the bike but unfortunately, no one let me go off the front and others got the opportunity to have a crack at breakaways.
‘I guess that comes with being the series leader. Although I completely emptied the tank with one kilometre to go, I lost three positions and finished eighth.
‘Considering this was an all-new experience and a big media demand pre-race, I think I handled everything the best I could.
‘I definitely learnt a lot from my experience in Bermuda and from the race itself and I look forward to improving in the next races. I’m excited to still be second to Mario Mola on the rankings!’
As for Murray, he was forced to pull out during the run leg to avoid doing more damage to a painful back.
It was a bittersweet experience for Murray as he had one of his best swims to date but his run of bad luck continued to dog him this year.
‘Yeah, the DNF [did not finish] wasn’t great,’ he told Team SA. ‘I had lower back problems from the bike [leg]. But I had my best swim to date and came out only 20 seconds behind so it’s good to see that aspect is going in the right direction and something positive to take out. On the bike I was in the front group for the first time ever in my career in Olympic distance, that’s another positive.’
But that’s where the positive stuff came to an end.
‘On the bike I wasn’t feeling great, a bit weak and couldn’t contribute much. The whole field came together on the bike and when I went out on the run, the body felt pretty terrible.
‘I tried to get into the rhythm but the back started flaring up after two kilometres, I was in a bad place and I had to pull out rather than do more damage.
‘It’s been a tough start to the year. The Commonwealth Games didn’t go to plan and then I had the crash in Abu Dhabi but I guess I can only look forward and work on getting the small things right.’
Meanwhile, Schoeman and Murray’s Gold Coast teammate Gillian Sanders raced to victory at the African Championships in Morocco.
She won, what she thinks is a seventh continental title, in 2:08:08, leading a clean sweep for South Africa as Australia-based Anel Radford and Shanae Williams claimed silver and bronze.
There were hints that two-time Olympian Sanders may hang up her competitive shoes after the Commonwealth Games where the highly rated SA team trailed in last place in the mixed team relay as Simone Ackermann was injured.
But the London-based racer still has a hunger: ‘I can’t finish my career on such a disappointment so I’m carrying on,’ she told Team SA.
‘Next up is a French GP in two weeks then Nottingham and Leeds WTS. I’m sitting out Yokohama. I’m pretty tired of travelling now.’
Photos: Schoeman and Murray in Bermuda action, by Wagner Araujo/ITU Media