By Mark Etheridge
South Africa had another impressive showing on the world triathlon scene with three men in the top 20 of the ITU World Triathlon event in London at the weekend.
Olympian Richard Murray, Commonwealth Games team-mate Henri Schoeman and former world junior champion Wian Sullwald ended fifth, seventh and 19th respectively in the event that featured a 750-metre swim, 20km bike and 5km run.
Murray clocked 51min 01sec compared to winner and Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee’s 50:39 as Schoeman (51:08) and Sullwald (51:30) were both part of a 23-strong wave of talent all within a minute of the winning time.
Despite not making the podium, Murray will take heart from the fact that at 14:12 his run was the quickest of the field and in the swim there was also more for South Africans to celebrate as Schoeman exited quickest in 8:34.
‘Yeah it was an interesting day of racing,’ Murray told Road to Rio 2016. ‘I felt pretty good leading into London and was very happy with my run. The running is feeling great but it was just a pity that the swim blew up as much as it did,’ he lamented.
‘I was about 40sec off the pace in the swim and had to chase hard on the bike but I got close to them, about 20sec.
‘But the legs are feeling great and it was a nice weekend. My dad was here giving some support which was great.’
Onto Germany now for the Durbanville, Western Cape athlete. ‘I’ll be racing with my German team EJOT now in the local bundesliga competition. Then I’m going to be based in the Pyrenees for a training where I’ll be taking another good luck at my swimming.’
Schoeman told Road to Rio 2016 that originally London hadn’t been on his schedule. ‘I decided to throw in in a couple of weeks ago because training had been really good and I hadn’t yet had an ideal race. So I wanted to give it a go while I’m in good shape.
‘I’m glad I made the decision because I’ve had two bad experiences in London and I wanted set that right… and I’m very happy with my result.
‘My mind and body were right. I had a good swim and stretched the field from the front so I could create a gap and put the weak swimmers at the back into stress.
‘It was always going to be fast race with no room for errors. We had a break of about 18 athletes who came into T2 together. The final few 100m I lost my position going into T2 and ran past my stand, which I think cost me my chance at a podium.
‘Overall I’m chuffed with my form and my move up to 12th on the world rankings. Now I’ll take some time to give my body a bit of a break before I continue with more hard work for the rest of the season.’
Next up for Schoeman, like Murray, is the Hamburg leg of the World Triathlon Series.
For the women’s side Gill Sanders, fifth in the last leg of the series in Yokohama was not a happy camper.
She ended 32nd in 57:45, two minutes down on US athlete Gwen Jorgensen. ‘I’m a little disappointed to be honest. I had a great swim and bike and was set up in the perfect position for a great result but when I jumped off the bike my body just didn’t want to work and I think the cold really got to me as it took me about three quarters of the run before my body felt like it was warming up.
‘I gave it everything I possibly could but my run, which is my strength, let me down which is a bit disappointing. Still, some positives to take away are that I’m swimming well and set myself up in the perfect position off the run and secondly, I move up to 22nd on the Olympic points list …so am creeping up there higher and higher.
‘Seven weeks till the next and looking forward to getting in a solid block of training.’
Next up for the London based Sanders are a French GP event and German Bundesliga, events which she’ll train through. And her next big event will also be Hamburg. ‘That should be much warmer. I’m an African and skinny so I need some heat! The only cold one coming up now will be Stockholm.
The other South African in action at London was Mari Rabie. South Africa’s first finisher in the women’s race at the Cape Town WTS leg, she ended 42nd in 58:21.