Three athletes will fly the South African flag as the qualifying process for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics gets under way in Yokohama, Japan on Saturday, writes MARK ETHERIDGE.
Last month’s Commonwealth Games champion Henri Schoeman leads the charge with fellow Team SA athletes Richard Murray and former world junior champion Wian Sullwald joining him.
Schoeman and Murray both competed in Bermuda two weeks ago but neither would be too happy with their results, as Schoeman ended eighth and Murray withdrew during the run leg as a precautionary measure due to back pain.
Nevertheless, Murray is upbeat ahead of the weekend’s racing. ‘I did the best I could to recover from Bermuda’s back issues and I feel much better. Here’s hoping I can pull a good race together,’ he told TeamSA.
‘The problem was a bike position that may have caused the back problems. My set-up wasn’t right.’
Murray’s no stranger to the Japanese event. ‘I think I’ve raced here three times already. It’s got a fast run, which is good.’ In the build-up to this weekend’s race he’s been swimming amongst thousands of jellyfish in the ocean waters around the city. See picture (below) of Murray in the Yokohama waters on Friday.
The South Africans will be out to prevent top-ranked Mario Mola making it three successive wins.
Two of the Norwegians who raced to a clean sweep of the podium in Bermuda (a first ever) are back racing. They are Kristian Blumenfeldt and Gustav Idea.
No South Africans are featured in the women’s race with Commonwealth participants Gill Sanders and Simone Ackermann out for different reasons. Ackermann is recovering from an injury that forced her below-par performance in the mixed team relay on Gold Coast while London-based Sanders’ next race will be a French Grand Prix event and then the Nottingham leg of the ITU calendar, a mixed relay event.
Photo: Schoeman winning gold in Gold Coast, by Michael Dodge/Getty Images