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Murray in mean form

Despite a broken thumb, Richard Murray showed just how much potential he has at the 2010 World Triathlon Championships (Grand Final) in Budapest on Saturday.

Murray was the best South African on the day with his eighth overall in the Under-23 division, and had he not tried too hard on the run, he may well have ended in the top five.

First out of the 1500-metre swim was Slovakia’s Richard Varga, needing only 17min 2sec for the two-lap course. Roughly 20sec behind Varga a group of approximately 11 athletes emerged before Murray hit dry land alongside four other athletes of the 76 starting athletes. Not far behind were Theo Blignaut and Wikus Weber, the three South Africans lying around 38th to 45th position.

Murray has been working hard on his swim, but his strength has always been the bike and the run. This was evident when he won the South African and African Duathlon title in July, in the process beating senior athlete and arguably South Africa’s number one duathlete, Brand Du Plessis.

A very strong bike leg by Theo Blignaut closed the gap from over 75 seconds to the first pack by more than 45 seconds before other athletes then started to help bring the packs together. Murray’s broken thumb clearly did not seem to be a problem on the slippery and technical bike course as he screamed to a 54:02 leg in the cycling section.

That brought him ÔÇô and a big group ÔÇô in touch with the early leaders within 32km. The broken thumb though did cost Murray in the transition, as he struggled to get his running shoes on. Once on the run though eventual winner Jonathan Brownlee of Great Britain was off like a hare. Murray, once he had his shoes on, was off like a rocket. By the end of lap one (the 10km road run consists of four laps of 2.5km), Murray had moved from 34th to 10th and at halfway he was lying second. He had to take a 15second time penalty and that cost him, but it did not deter him.

Chasing the small bunch that was trying hard to close the gap on leader Brownlee, Murray finished strongly to end up eighth.
Wikus Weber and Theo Blignaut both lost touch on the run after staying with the bunch on the bike leg, but will be happy with their 29th and 32nd position overall.

Meanwhile Hendrik De Villiers was our best South African in the men’s elite race, finishing 22nd of 84 entrants. De Villiers was hoping for a top 10 finish but the racing was very hard, so hard, that Series Leader and Olympic Champion, Jan Frodeno finished outside the top 10, in fact way out in 41st position.

The water temperature was 16 degrees Celcius and constant rain greeted the athletes. A strong swimming field left the South Africans scrambling in 42 to 55th position. Hendrik De Villiers made the first chase pack on the bike while Claude Eksteen and Erhard Wolfaardt were in the third pack.

The rain had made an already difficult and technical bike course quite treacherous, with bad road surfaces and tram tracks combining with the wet to make it very difficult, and taking its toll on a number of riders who crashed to the ground, including Tim Don of Great Britain. Don certainly had podium potential written all over him, but retired after the crash.

De Villiers moved forward through the bike leg and at the start of the run improved to 15th place whilst Eksteen and Wolfaardt sat in the 40s.

After the first lap of the run De Villiers began to drop back. Wolfaardt started to move forward through the pack. Eksteen, dogged by an erratic and injury plagued season, struggled on the run, and was to finish in 46th place. By the last lap De Villiers had dropped to 21st (his illness prior to leaving for Budapest robbing him of some vital endurance) and Wolfaardt improved 14 places to 27th.

Also in Budapest, 90 paratriathletes  from 23 countries participated in the Paratriathlon World Championships. Oswald Kydd did South Africa proud by claiming the bronze medal in the T2 division .

Despite challenging conditions, rain, a wet road surface and the water temperature of 14 degrees, Oswald was unstoppable. He was the first athlete in his category across the line using crutches as opposed to a blade. ÔÇ£So close yet so farÔÇØ,┬á was Oswald’s comment when asked about his thoughts on the finishing line with the fourth athlete on his heels.