Kate's on the comeback | SASCOC - SASCOC

Kate’s on the comeback

Dare we say itÔǪ Kate Roberts is back and mixing it with the world’s best triathletes?

After an annus horribilis where seemingly everything that could go wrong, did go wrong, Roberts finally looks to have turned the corner towards the end of the year, writes Mark Etheridge.

She’s had injury and illness to contend with at every turn till now but her last two results in the Far East surely indicate that she’s back on track. In Beijing two weeks ago she ended 42nd behind winner Andrew Hewitt of New Zealand at the ITU World Championship Grand Final.

Now 42nd may not seem anything to get excited by but when one considers the DNF’s (Did not Finish) that she’s had this year and the event she wasn’t even able to make the starting line, that resembles a comeback of note.

And it got better. At last week’s ITU World Series in Yokohama, Japan she blitzed her way to 15th spot as Hewitt won once again. Indeed she was only just over two minutes behind Hewit and actually had a better bike leg than the New Zealander. Just behind Roberts was Gillian Sanders in 24th spot (2:02:13), the London based competitor also quietly carving a niche for herself in the hum-drum world of triathlon.

Roberts told Road to London 2012 on Wednesday as she started a period of down-time back home in Bloemfontein: “I was happy to finally have a better performance on the weekend and this has really helped my motivationÔǪ It is nice to know that I still have it in me! While there’s still a lot of work to be done to get better and I need to reassess how I take things forward with regards to the rest of my year, I am happy that things are finally looking up and am going to give everything I can over the next 10 months to get the best result that I can in London 2012. I just need one or two more solid results and I should make the qualification process.

“I’ll take a week or so off now and try not to think too much about triathlon then get straight back to the grind.”

Coach Darren Smith’s assessment of his charge’s better showing? “Beijing was a tough race, with her being dropped later in the bike leg after a great swim which was the aspect missing in previous rounds. That was very encouraging and a result of just having a more consistent 4 week training phase since the last race. She bounced back in performance terms in the Yokahama race to a 15th which resembles a bit more like the Katie of old, but the swim this time was back off the pace a bit and some luck got her back into contention by the start of the run leg. Competing in the top 10 for a good deal of the run leg must have been a great feeling for her after the horrors of this year.”

Ever the realist though and Smith is under no illusions as the work that lies ahead. “Having said that, neither of the races were that impressive from a performance level and there are still some systemic issues she needs to address in order to be world class again, so her time now in South Africa is to regroup and decide if she has the desire to race the next group of World Cup races to consolidate ranking points or it is time to call it a day on the schedule for this year. ”

After the latest round of racing, Roberts and Sanders find themselves sharing 71st spot on the ITU rankings list, both with 310 points.

As for Sanders, apart from dealing with the extreme heat, as did the rest of the field, she had to deal with a crash on the bike. “It was hot, very hot. In fact, the hottest conditions I’ve ever raced in ÔÇô they reckon about 38 degrees out on the course. I had a decent swim and went off onto the bike and on the first corner on the first lap I crashed.

“I was lucky not to be too hurt (save for some grazes & bruises) and managed to get back on and catch up to four girls in front of me. We in turn caught up to the initial pack that I’d been in front of before my crash. This did take a lot out of me and my water bottle came out during my crash so I was without fluid for two laps of the bike until an ITU official luckily handed my water bottle to me. We caught the lead pack on the bike.

“I felt awful on the first lap of the run, my body was sore from the crash but after two laps I managed to find a bit of rythmn and pulled back quite a lot of positions, finishing in 24th. This sets me up nicely for next year as this was the first ITU World Champs Series race for the 2012 season. I’ll be racing one more World Cup in Mexico and thereafter will have a two-week break and start base training again in late October for the all important 2012!”

Meanwhile, after winning the German national championships and then ending 30th in the world final, Richard Murray is rapidly becoming South Africa’s hottest triathlon asset.

The Capetonian athlete is still focusing on being aboard the Team South African plane to the London Olympics next year. “Beijing, China was the biggest event of my career! Thirtieth place and a great race all round, my Olympic dream is starting to come true,” Murray told Road to London 2012.

And what’s next for the youngster. “I’ll be racing a World Cup event in Mexico on the seventh of October and will be racing BSG-Energade tri series till the start of DecemberÔǪ then a four-week break with some heavy swimming.

“Next year, I want to start with South African champs then on to 11 globals SA sprint champs. I’ll do African champs in Mauritius and then I’ll start on World Championship series races.
“I really hope to make the Olympics next year, and will do whatever it takes to make the cut!!”