By Mark Etheridge
Olympic bronze medallist Henri Schoeman saved his best for last as he posted a career-first World Triathlon Series victory at the season’s Grand Final in Cozumel, Mexico on the weekend.
And fellow Olympian Mari Rabie emulated her 11th spot from the Olympics in the women’s race!
Richard Murray did the same – ending fourth in the men’s race in what turned out to be strangely similar to London. Overall series winner was Spain’s Mario Mola who pipped Britain’s Jonathan Brownlee by just four points (4819 to 4815) after a season’s frantic racing.
Schoeman ended fourth overall (3160) and Murray fifth (2975).
The race was run in searing conditions and there was high drama as Jonny Brownlee opened a slight gap but then felt the effects of the heat with less than a kilometre to run and Rio Olympics gold medallist brother Alistair stopped to give assistance, helping him across the line. The Spanish Triathlon Federation lodged an appeal against illegal assistance but the International Triathlon Union competition jury unanimously over-ruled it.
The swim saw pretty much the same pack as in the Olympics a month ago and all three medallists were in the front pack.
On the run, Schoeman stuck to Jonathan Bronwlee and the two were later joined by Alistair. As the drama involving the brothers unfolded Schoeman hit the lead as the trio hit the blue carpet finish stretch.
The Durban athlete went on to win in 1hr 46min 50sec, 18sec clear of both Brownlee brothers who crossed the line together. Murray, who broke his collarbone in Australia earlier this year, took fourth in 1:47.35.
Schoeman told the official triathlon website: ‘I knew it was going to be warm out there. I just tried to stay calm throughout the whole race. I was just running with the Brownlees and trying not to exert too much and then I saw Jonny pull ahead on that third lap.
‘So it is just so unfortunate that he collapsed at the end, I think both Brownlees deserve one and two, but it is an overall race that counts and I am the one who ended up the strongest. So I’m really happy with that.’
In the women’s race, it was Bermuda’s Flora Duffy, who trains in Rabie’s home town of Stellenbosch, who secured the grand final win. A fantastic bike leg saw her start the 10km run 1:07 clear and not even the hard-running Olympic champion Gwen Jorgensen could haul her in as she clocked a combined time of 1:57.59, 17sec clear of Jorgensen.
As for Rabie, her time was 2:00:51. She told Road to Rio 2016: ‘So I didn’t have the best swim, an OK bike and then I ran really well for the first 5km.
‘Still, a solid result and I raced more than any of those in front of me this year in order to scramble for the Games. Overall, I’m happy to walk away from the sport with an 11th at my last Senior Worlds, 14 years after 10th at my first Junior Worlds also here in Mexico.’
South Africa’s other female entrant, two-time Olympian Gillian Sanders, failed to finish after a 20.05 swim leg.
Rabie ended the world rankings in 16th spot and Sanders 43rd.