By Mark Etheridge
While South Africa celebrated a 1-2-3 men’s podium finish at the opening Discovery World Cup event in Cape Town on Saturday it was a mixed bag of results for the big, and mostly young, SA contingent.
Richard Murray, Henri Schoeman and Wian Sullwald ran their way to gold, silver and bronze in the men’s race over 750-metres of swimming 20km cycling and 5km running while Anel Radford in 15th was the best of the SA women.
Next best for SA was 2011 African Games champ Carlyn Fischer of Pretoria in 19th, followed by Vicky van der Merwe, the latter racing her ITU first race in 18 months.
Fischer was the first of a string of four locals next across the line, Van der Merwe, Cindy Schwulst and Celeste Renaud being next. Other South African finishers were Jodie Berry in 24th and Jayme Vermaas one spot later.
Vermaas was a Youth Olympian in Nanjing, China three years ago and is currently at junior level.
Said the Bloemfontein based racer: ‘It was a very exciting time in my racing career. It was my first World Cup Start in the senior elite level,and being able to mix it up with some of the worlds best and also my fellow SA Elite ladies, was truly a great experience.
‘I’d like to thank TSA and coach Kate Roberts for allowing me and giving me such a huge opportunity to be able to compete at this level, still being a junior. Only a few athletes in the world are allowed to experience this level of racing, and with me being still a junior it was fantastic.
‘I didn’t set my expectations too high but was ready to give my best on race day. My swim was not where I wanted it to be and I missed the main bunch by a few seconds. No excuses, just the reality of what it takes to race at such level. I’m pleased that I still came out of the water in front of most of the rest of the SA elite athletes.
‘This made for a second main bunch, surrounded by mostly our SA elite athletes, with a couple of other international girls in the mix. It was awesome to have that experience around me while we were working hard to keep the damage on the second lap to its minimum. The second bunch included Anel Radford, the only SA rep up in the front.
‘I was happy with my cycle but still need more experience on such technical courses. Unfortunately on the start of the last lap myself, a French and Great British girl misjudged our timing in the exchange area and lost a couple of seconds on our bunch, which made it hard to latch on again for the last lap on the cycle (experience and focus show at this level that you can’t relax your guard for one moment).
‘I’ve been working hard on my run and it showed improvement. I was happy that I could hunt down a couple of girls that started the run ahead of me and me and my senior SA teammates Jodie finished in a dead heat!’
‘Overall as an athlete you can never be happy about your performance, unless you win. I met my goals and learned from this awesome experience!
‘Now it is back to the grindstone in preparing for the Junior SA champs, that is proudly being hosted by my province that I represent – the Free State, on 19 March at Aldam, Ventersburg.
Two of the other rising SA stars were Madelaine le Roux and Alex Quenet, neither of whom were able to finish on Saturday. Le Roux was the 2014 African Youth Games champion in Botswana.
But she was laid low with sickness just days before the event. ‘My wisdom teeth are coming out, I had an infection and was on antibiotics.
‘I thought the antibiotics would help, but the pain just got too bad, especially with the cold water on the swim.’
She ended up in the medical tent as did young Quenet.
‘It certainly wasn’t the day I was expecting, definitely not what I had in mind after a good block of six weeks,’ said Quenet. ‘I ended up in the medical tent and was on a nebuliser for an hour. That was with a lap to go on the bike after I became delusional and lost the feeling in my hands and feet.
‘I guess these things happen to the best, it’s just so disappointing when so much work went into being ready for this race.’
After the SA men’s 1-2-3 finish next best was Quenet’s younger brother Nicholas (pictured right) in 27th spot in his biggest triathlon on local soil.
‘I was happy with my swim which is my strongest discipline,’ says Quenet. ‘I was about third in the swim with the French guy first. Then I had a bit of a slip in Transition One and lost some time.
‘Henri [Schoeman] went out really hard and I only got back onto the pace just past halfway mark. Then the bike pace slowed down a bit and we all came together.
‘My legs were really tired on the run and I just ran to finish. I definitely need to work on my run for now as well analyse and improve on any other necessary areas.
‘Next up will be some races in Europe around June.’
Picture of Fischer, Renaud and Vicky van der Merwe courtesy of Greg Beadle/ITU Media. Picture of Nicholas Quenet courtesy of Michael van Vuuren.
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