By Mark Etheridge
South Africa’s Henri Schoeman wrapped up his international competition year on the best possible note with victory in Sunday’s ITU Triathlon World Cup in Tongyeong, South Korea.
Schoeman won silver for Team South Africa in the team event at the Commonwealth Games in Scotland earlier this year and this latest moment cements a fine season, despite some injury setbacks that tested his patience and resolve.
Sunday saw him clocking a total time of 1hr 48min 15sec for the 1.5 kilometre swim, 40km bike ride and 10km run.
That had him beating United States duo Ben Kanute and Tommy Zaferes into second and third spot respectively with times of 1:48.34 and 1:48:40.
‘I haven’t had the year I was planning on, with up-and-down results and injuries at the worst possible times,’ Schoeman told Road to Rio 2016. ‘But with Olympic qualification in full swing, every chance to bag points becomes vital.
‘The best thing I could’ve done, was getting home after the four-month trip overseas during the WTS (World Triathlon Series). I started doing the training I did last year and got back into my own routine. I immediately started feeling like my old self again in training, and started seeing results quickly. Having the support from the people closest to me, also played a key role. My confidence started building up again which excites me to race again.’
But Sunday’s race still didn’t go as smoothly as he had hoped for and there technical problems he had to sort out before the race.
‘My bike’s shifter broke five minutes into my first ride and I had no working gears until the night before the race. The mechanic was able to order a new set of shifters just in time! I had no time to test it before the race so I was hoping and praying that it would work and keep intact.’
Into the race and conditions were excellent for racing. ‘I had a comfortable start and picked up the pace just after halfway in the swim to create a gap for a possible breakaway, tells Schoeman.
‘On the bike there were five of us who had a small break and we maxed out the first couple of kilometres to secure a break. We were all motivated for a breakaway and kept working very well together. At the end of the bike we ended up with two and a half minutes ahead of the huge 52-man chase pack who had some fast and fresh legs.
‘I felt really good when I started the run and I knew I had a good chance to end on the podium. It was great to feel like myself again. I was battling it out with Zaferes and Kanute, both from the USA. I slowly kept pushing harder and harder until they cracked and I could enjoy my first ever WC win. It’s an incredible feeling of satisfaction, joy and excitement.’
And as ever, Schoeman, who pocketed $7,500 for his victory, was quick to thank all those who have helped him get where he has this year.
I have to thank my family, girlfriend Franzel Allen and friends for supporting me through the hardships during the year. Also to my sponsors FINIS, HUUB Design, Trianarchy and Cytomax for supporting me. Thank you!’
While Schoeman’s international racing season may be over he still has to summon up the strength for one last effort on local soil.
‘It’s the 5150 African Champs next weekend in Germiston where I’ll be defending my title to end off the year.
Other South Africans in Asian action at the weekend where Wikus Webber who ended 33rd in the men’s elite race (2:03:54) while two-time Olympian Kate Roberts took 22nd in the women’s race (2:03:54) and Carlyn Fischer was 43rd, the All Africa Games champion clocking 2:13:21.