By Mark Etheridge
Henri Schoeman and Kate Roberts were crowned South African triathlon champions in East London at the weekend, writes Mark Etheridge.
Despite having the inconvenience of having four wisdom teeth removed under general anaesthetic just two weeks prior to the race, Under-23 athlete Schoeman won the overall event, which doubled up as the African Cup, with a time of 1hr 57min 03sec, 29sec ahead of his U23 compatriot and reigning world junior triathlon champion Wian Sullwald.
The podium was completed by Austrian elite athlete Andreas Giglmayr in 1:57:47.
Competitors swam 1500 metres, cycled 40 kilometres and ran 10km. The two local youngsters slugged it out throughout the race with Schoeman exiting the water 19sec clear of Sullwald before the latter was 23sec quicker on the bike leg. Schoeman then ended with a 36:31 run which was 28sec quicker than Sullwald.
The women’s win went to Belgium’s Katrien Verstuyft, the 30-year-old Olympian coming home in 2:07:39. Following her across the line was our own double Olympian, Kate Roberts, in 2:08:24 and U23 youngster Carlyn Fischer (2:09:14). It was the running leg that saw Verstuyft nail down the win as she clocked 38:17 to the 39:04 by Roberts. Bloemfontein based Roberts takes the national title though, due to Verstuyft being an international entry.
Roberts is now on her way Down Under to Australia for the upcoming World Cup events but Schoeman took time out to tell Road to Rio 2016 of his win.
“Preparation wasn’t exactly 100% as I had to take antibiotics up until a week before. This left me out of training for three days and slowly increasing the workload again. My coaches, Alisdair Hatfield and Joe Schoeman did a very good job in fully preparing for the operation with my training.
“During the swim I felt rather sluggish and tired. I kept within my limits in the swim swimming along side a German athlete some 30sec ahead of the rest of the field. We came through T1 together and cycled together. I wanted to stay ahead, and with the German guy not willing to help by taking his turn in front I found myself doing 90% of the work to stay away. Wian caught up to us after about 25km of the bike and then we started working well together all of a sudden. Again I stayed relaxed on the bike and kept within my limits to not jeopardise a possible win.
“The three of us entered T2 together and the German flew out of transition putting at least 20sec on both Wian and I by 1km. I kept my cool and paced with Wian. We soon caught up to the German at about 3km into the run. I was feeling good for the first time in the race, so I put in a surge to shake off the German.”
But junior world champion Sullwald still managed to stick to Schoeman’s heels.” At the turnaround, almost 4km into the run, I wanted to see how Wian was feeling so I put in a fast turn and accelerated quickly out of the turn and found I made a 10-15m gap fairly quickly. I slowed down to my pace again and got into a comfortable stride. I increased my lead to 30sec when I crossed the finish line.”
And the win was a rather special moment for Durban based Schoeman, the younger brother of Team SA’s Olympic swimmer Riaan: “I had dreamed about winning the SA Elite title for a long time. After struggling with injuries since 2009-2011 and not being able to show my full potential until only recently, I can finally celebrate my first SA Elite title.”
Schoeman also comes from a swimming background before deciding to give triathlon a full go at the age of 17, although he’d dabbled with the code for the previous seven years, during which he won a few provincial and national titles.
Now busy with an international marketing management (IMM) course he’ll be hoping to make his mark on the triathlon scene this year.
“Next up will be the ITU World Triathlon Series in San Diego next month. Then it will be the African Championships in Morocco in May before I hope to be travelling Europe for the rest of the WTS before ending the season off with the Grand Finale in London. I will then do some local events as well as a Continental Cup in Zimbabwe in December.”