By Mark Etheridge
Two-time Olympian Richard Murray successfully defended his Discovery World Cup triathlon title in Cape Town on Sunday as Olympic bronze medallist Henri Schoeman ensured a South African 1-2!
Last year it was a clean sweep as Wian Sullwald took bronze behind Murray and Schoeman but the former world junior champion is still getting into shape after an armed attack on the family home late last year.
On this occasion Murray looked in sublime form after a training camp in Namibia and won in 52min 15sec with Schoeman next best in 52:39.
Such was their domination over the 750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run in sweltering conditions that both South Africans had the luxury of time to high-five spectators as they finished down the blue carpet on the Green Point urban park, next to the athletics stadium used for last year’s event.
‘I wanted to get a good swim in today and then my wetsuit hooked in the transition,’ said Murray.
‘I must say my race was very similar to last year but I had a much better run this year… and of course no time penalty like last year!
‘It’s still early in the season so I didn’t want to come in to today’s race too fit but still, a 1-2 for SA in the Mother City is great.
‘Now it’s onwards to concentrate on the ITU Abu Dhabi event.’
Schoeman was magnanimous in defeat. ‘It’s great to have an SA 1-2 but Richard was just too strong today and well done to him. I took my time a bit in the swim and just focused on doing everything right.
‘A 1-2 on home soil is great though.’
The women’s race went to Britain’s Vicky Holland as her and compatriot Non Stanford repeated their domination of last year.
Holland won in 58:18, 34sec ahead of Stanford.
Best South African was New Zealand based Simone Ackermann, racing in SA colours on home turf for the first occasion.
She just missed out on the podium, 21sec adrift of Hungary’s Zsanett Bragmayer who won bronze, but was a happy athlete afterwards.
‘I was quite nervous but I had a good place in the swim and just had to hold it, ‘said Ackermann, originally from East London, but now living in Whangerei, two hours north of Auckland.
‘It was a good field today and there was some aggressive racing. I think it will be a very similar sort of field and racing at the Commonwealth Games.
‘I hung in on the bike and the run was good. The run wasn’t my main priority today but I had a nice gap and I’ll take a fourth place anyway. It’s my best World Cup finish ever and I’m just so proud to be racing for South Africa.’
She’ll be part of Team SA at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast in April and is upbeat about the prospects.
‘The team relay is my focus and we definitely have a chance to medal if not get gold. There’s something quite special about the quality of team we can put into the relay.
Next best South African was Australian based Anel Radford in 15th overall and London based Gillian Sanders in 18th.
‘I’ve raced this event five times now and have only really had one good run,’ reflected Sanders. ‘I’ve punctured, crashed and today I just couldn’t get my wetsuit off. It’s a new suit but I’ve practised getting it off so many times but today it just snagged on the timing chip and once you lose a few seconds like that, it’s all over!’
Pictures of Murray and Ackermann courtesy of ITU