By Mark Etheridge
Olympic and Commonwealth Games triathlete Gillian Sanders wrapped up her 2015 season with a top 10 finisher at the World Cup event in Alanya, Turkey at the weekend.
Sanders, who has had an up and down season with mechanicals and injuries, will be happy with that finish and comforted by the fact that her season’s scoring has put her in a good position to qualify a slot for South Africa at next year’s Rio Olympics.
Sanders took sixth spot with a 2hr 00min 41sec finish for the 1500-metre swim, 40-kilometre cycle and 10km run.
That was 69sec down on winner Yuliya Yelitstratova of Ukraine while American Summer Cook (1:59:52) and Miriam Casillas Garcia of Spain took third in 2:00.05.
Sanders will now put her feet up in Cape Town for a well deserved break next week. But before that she’s in Bahrain, helping out with a training camp. She spoke to Road to Rio 2016 from the Middle East.
‘The race was good. I just wanted to finish the season on a high after my disappointment in Chicago,’ she said.
‘ I took one week off and then got two weeks of solid training in. After the swim in Turkey there was one big chase pack that I was in and eight girls up the road. We quickly caught them and I knew it would come down to the run. I had a shocker of a second transition, but clawed my way nicely through the pack.
‘My run still didn’t feel 100% there [she hurt a calf some time back while jumping over a dog during a training run] but I think this is just the end of a very long and tiring season.
‘I was pleased with sixth but obviously a bit disappointed not to podium. It puts me in a good position ranking wise for next year which hopefully means I won’t have to race and travel too much which means I can properly peak come the Olympics. So now I’ll have a two and half week break then it’s back to the grind.’
Sanders picked up $1800 for her sixth spot. Her finishing position also sees her move five places up the Olympic qualification rankings to 30th spot. She’s now amassed 3065.32 points over the season. Runaway leader is American Gwen Jorgensen who has an impressive 11,000 points.
Also in action at the weekend was Sanders’ fellow South African Mari Rabie. The Stellenbosch based athlete, who was SA’s top women finisher at the Cape Town leg of the WTS calendar, placed 33rd in 2:03:32.
In terms of Olympic rankings she slipped down three slots to 88th and has a total of 1273.97 points.
Her best-scoring race of the year was her second spot at the African Championships in Egypt where she won 370 points.
Picture of Sanders on the run in Analya courtesy of ITU