By Mark Etheridge
Our Gilll Sanders raced to the best Olympic Games triathlon finish by a South African on Saturday when she placed 19th in the gruelling event.
Sanders, 30, clocked 2hr 02min 28sec for the three-phase event, made up of a 1500-metre swim, 40 kilometre cycle and 10km run.
And Sanders was followed hom shortly afterwards by a second Team SA athlete, Kate Roberts.
Roberts who raced for SA in Beijing four years ago, finished 22nd in a time of 2:02:46.
The race was staged in and around the historic Hyde Park with competitors passing countless historical sites, including Buckingham Palace.
Gold medallist was Switzerland’s Nicola Spirig in 1:59:48, after a desperate sprint for the line with Sweden’s Lisa Norden. Both were credited with the same time.
Our girls had mixed fortunes during the event. Both had good swims in the one lap around the Serpentine, Roberts had a wretched bike after crashing on the first lap while Sanders had the ride of her life.
Then in the run the fortunes switched again with Sanders struggling and Roberts rampant covering the 10km in 34:48, a minute and a half quicker than Sanders.
Speaking after the race and London based Sanders said:”It’s frustrating because I could have done better but to make top 20 in the Olympic triathlon and have the highest Games finish by an SA athlete is still great, it has to be the greatest sporting day of my life.
“I had a great swim, felt very strong on the bike and just missed the crash where Kate went down in front of me. I managed to go around them.
“I was pleased that I was able to stay at the front of the bike and then just before the end of the bike I thought to myself ‘please let me have my racing legs for the run;.
“I sprinted the first 200m because you have to do that to avoid missing the bunch but I knew almost immediately that my legs weren’t there.
“That’s frustrating because the run is my strength!.
“Still, I hope to be back at Rio in 2016. I’m 30 now and in this field of 55 girls, 20 were over 30 so that doesn’t bother me.”
Sanders,, who has been based in Richmond, London for a few years now and gave up her full-time job as a lawyer to concentrate on the Olympic dream, also praised the support by her fellow South Africans.
“It was amazing, Wherever you looked there were South African flags and people cheering me on.”
Twenty-nine-year old Roberts, who was the seventh ranked triathlete in the world at the end of 2010 before going through a lengthy struggle with injury and illness,
She cut a sad sight, the tip of her nose bloodied from her bike crash.”It was just after the Palace wehn Emma [Moffatt, Australia] went down and I couldn’t avoid it. Then no-one wanted to work to catch up so I was pretty much stuck.
“It’s so disappointing because I had just about the greatest swim of my life and I also felt very good on the run.
“My goal beforehand was top 10 but it’s good to see that my training partners Lisa [Norden] and Sarah [Groff, US] got second and fourth respectvely.
“I’m bitterly disappointed but I’ll come back…”