By Mark Etheridge
Triathlete Erhard Wolfaardt had the honour of being Team South Africa’s first gold medal winner at the 10th All Africa Games here on Sunday.
And three other medals clattered into the team’s treasure chest not long after that, including a second gold from young Carlyn Fischer in the women’s race.
Twenty-eight-year-old Wolfaardt looked in control throughout and went on to cover the sprint distance event in 58min 30sec.
Competitors swam 750 metres through the murky Maputo Bay waters, cycled 20km around the beach reason and then wound up with a 5km dash around the flat parkland area around the transition zone.
The other medallist in the men’s race was 18-year-old Wian Sullwald, who took bronze for his third spot while Andrea Steyn took silver behind Fischer in the women’s race.
This was the first occasion that triathlon had featured at an All Africa Games and the event featured a 22-strong men’s field and nine women’s competitors. The men’s race had nine different countries and the women’s five.
Speaking of his race, Potchefstroom based Wolfaardt was a happy man. “It’s nice to win the first medal for South Africa here. In the swim I just tried to keep in touch with the strongest swimmers and followed Namibia’s Abrahm Louw till the third buoy when he really picked up the pace.
“I had a bit of a scare in the bike leg when I nearly missed a turn coming downhilll and had to go up onto the pavement and over roadworks but it was OK in the end.
“In the run I knew I could beat Abrahm so just made sure that I kept everything together.”Next up for Wolfaardt, a qualified sports scientist, will be a few of the Africa Cup events in Zimbabwe, Pretoria and maybe Mauritius.
Like Wolfaardt, Fischer had previous experience of this course, having competed at the African Championships in July. Again like Wolfaardt she was pretty much in control for the entire race.
The 20-year-old Tuks law student covered the course in 1:06:25 for a 33sec victory margin over teammate Andrea Steyn, back in competition after a lengthy spell out with a stress fracture of her left femur.
“Everything was perfect for me today. I like a non-wetsuit swim and I also like a bike leg with a few hills. I had a good swim and when I started the bike leg I didn’t wait for the girls to catch me I just went for it. Lauren [Dance] did catch me on the second lap and then on the third lap Fabianne (St Louis) from Mauritius and Andrea also caught me before Lauren fell off a bit near the end.
“On the run I knew Fabianne and Andrea were good runners but I was surprised that they never really came with me. It’s definitely the biggest win of my career,” she said.
Runner-up Steyn, sidelined for so long, was happy. “It’s great to be back competing again but there’s still quite a bit of work to do.”
Fischer, Steyn and Sullwald (eighth at last year’s Youth Olympics in Singapore) had no time to relax after victory, all of them heading back to Johannesburg on Sunday and then on to Beijing, China on Monday for the World Championships next weekend.
1 Erhard Wolfaardt (SA) 58min 30sec, 2 Abrahm Louw (Namibia) 59:13, 3 Wian Sullwald (SA) 61:46, 4 Chris Felgate (Zimbabwe) 62:07, 5 Valery de Falbaire (Mauritius) 65:06
Women: 1 Carlyn Fischer (SA) 66:25, 2 Andrea Steyn (SA) 66:58, 3 Fabianne St Louis (Mauritius) 67:29, 4 Lauren Dance (SA) 68:38, 5 Laurelle Brown (Zimbabwe) 75:17
75kg preliminaries: Hlahla Hobwana lost 8-5 to Martey Emmanuel (Ghana)
Group match: South Africa 0 Nigeria 3
For free images of the All Africa Games go to www.sascocimages.co.za. Hi-res pictures are available for download free of charge without passwords.