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Sanders, Dance take on world’s best in Cape Town

By Mark Etheridge

Our top female athletes welcome their global counterparts at the first elite event of this weekend’s World Triathlon Series at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon.

And even though Sweden’s 2012 Olympics silver medallist Lisa Norden is still not ready to make her comeback, a whole host of stars will grace our shores in the multi-code festival.

Cape Town hosts the first ever ITU WTS race on the African continent, and pre-race favourites will come from three nations, Jodie Stimpson and two-time world champion Helen Jenkins of the UK, Germany’s Anne Haug, American Gwen Jorgensen.

They’ll slug it out over 1500-metres of swimming in the cold Atlantic waters of Table Bay, then take to the saddle for 40 kilometres of cycling and then wrap it up with a 10km dash that will end at the Lookout finish venue in Grainger Bay.

With the Cape Town course offering little in the way of hills like the season-opener in Auckland, New Zealand on the cycle route the finish is expected to go right down to the tape.

South Africa’s best hopes for top 10 and even a podium place is London based Gillian Sanders, right, who comes into the race in fine spirits after three recent podium finishes, including the SA and African titles.

She was our top-placed finisher in London, ending 19th.

“I’m super excited, its not every day we have an event of this calibre on home soil. I feel like I’m in great shape coming off some good results the past few weeks.

“The ladies field is truly world class but I really believe I can have a breakthrough performance if everything goes according to plan on race day,” she told Road to Rio 2016.

Our other 2012 Olympian, Kate Roberts, won’t be making the trip south after first failing to recover from a stress fracture in her foot and then becoming ill.

“Eight weeks later and I’m still not able to run at all,” she said. During her recovery bid the two-time Olympian had been making use of a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for two hours daily but this turned out to be detrimental in other ways.

“By doing this, along with my cycle and swim training, the process had taken its toll on my body and I eventually ended up fighting bronchitis. I was still desperately trying to train, but unfortunately three courses of antibiotics later, the doctor eventually sent me home to my family and friends in Bloemfontein to rest and recover and now I won’t be able to perform at the biggest race of the season.

But Roberts is determined to see the bright side of the gloom.

“I may be injured and ill but I won’t stop believing that I can get myself ready for the Commonwealth Games in July this year. It is a matter of controlling what can I can (eg: I may not be able to run at the moment but can make sure that my swimming and cycling are at their best and bullet proof).

“I also wanted to say best of luck to all the athletes racing this weekend in Cape Town, it is going to be such an amazing opportunity for South Africans to witness our sport at the highest level.”

Also in the mix will be Lauren Dance, 2011 All-Africa Games competitor and second to Sanders at African Championships.

“I’m also really excited for this race. I started triathlon in Aug 2008 when I was 18 years old and now, five and a half years down the road I am on the start line to the biggest race of my life to date,” Dance told Road to Rio 2016.

“This is the first time I will be racing such a large, quality field. I am nervous but way more excited,” she said before testing the icy waters of Table Bay, right.

“Training has been going really well and after my second place in Troutbeck, Zimbabwe two weeks ago I have a bit more confidence. Especially in the swim.

“I’m not sure what to expect on Saturday, I am hoping for a solid swim to set me up for a good race. And then I am hoping to have a much stronger run than in Troutbeck. It is super exciting to have such a quality field on South African soil and it is an amazing opportunity to see where I am compares to the best athletes in the world.”

The elite women’s race goes off from Quay Six at the Waterfront at 3pm on Saturday.

Picture of Dance by Christ Hitchcock