Gillian Sanders, our in-form women’s triathlete and London Olympic hopeful, dominated the women’s elite field at the weekend’s African Championships in Mauritius and has now moved on to Australia to continue her quest for a place on Team SA later this year, writes Mark Etheridge.
London based Sanders has seen a steady increase in success since temporarily shelving her job as a lawyer to live the Olympic dream.
In Mauritius she covered the 1500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run in a combined time of 2hr 13min 07sec, her running prowess proving the difference as she ran away from All Africa Games champion Carlyn Fischer and Australian based 2008 Olympian Kate Roberts.
“I’m ecstatic with the win and being able to add the title of African champion to South African champion,” the 30-year-old told Road to London 2012.
Having spent two weeks with her parents in Pietermaritzburg proved to her advantage as conditions at the Le Morne competition venue were hot and humid.
“I came out of the swim second together with Fabienne St Louis [Mauritius] and Pauline Purro [Switzerland]. Kate had 15sec on us after the swim but we all caught her within the first kilometer of the bike.”
A group soon formed, made up of Sanders, Roberts, Fischer, Vicky van der Merwe, St Louis and Purro.
“It was a very tactical bike,” says Sanders. “The Mauritian girl used her climbing strength to try and break away on the six big hills that we had to race. She was unsuccessful time and again as we reeled her in but on the last hill she did it again and Carlyn and then closed the gap and the three of us broke away with about 4km to go.”
That saw the three hit the final transition with about a 20sec cushion. “The run was flat but very hot and Carlyn and I immediately pulled away from the Mauritian. At about 4km I surged and made a gap which continued to increase for the remaining 6km of the run and I wonky first African champs elite title by just over a minute.”
She’ll now tackle the Sydney leg of the World Cup series in a fine frame of mind. “I’m very happy with my form at this early stage of the season and I’m so excited for all the upcoming races and improving more and more with each race in the lead up to 2012.”
Sanders’ win in Mauritius has given her a continental qualification slot for the Olympics and the next few months racing could still see two women’s slots for Team SA.