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Schoeman, Sanders celebrate African Champs success

By Mark Etheridge

Henri Schoeman and Gillian Sanders have successfully defended their African Championships triathlon titles in Troutbeck, ZimbabweÔǪnow it’s on to the World Triathlon Series showdown in Cape Town next weekend.

Schoeman covered the testing combination of a 1500-metre swim, 40-kilometre bike ride and 10km run in 2hr 00min 15sec for a clearcut win over London Olympian Richard Murray (2:01:49) and former world junior champion Wian Sullwald (2:02:26).

And Sanders, also part of Team South Africa at the London Olympics, notched her third consecutive African Championships title to go with the titles she won in 2012 and 2013.

Schoeman told Road to Rio 2016 on his return to South Africa: “I really like the course at Troutbeck, it’s really challenging and it brings out the strongest athlete. It’s a hilly and technical bike and run ale also at an altitude of 2100m.

The Durban-based athlete missed South African championships due to an ankle injury but was able to race the first WTS race of the year in Auckland, New Zealand two weeks ago.

“I used my swim to my advantage and had a good gap over Wian and the rest of the field and just anted to maintain my lead on the bike and go into the run without using too much effort. The bike was tough and I didn’t have the strength I usually haveÔǪ probably still feeling the effects of Auckland and then travelling from NZ to SAS and then on to Zimbabwe during the week.”

Going into the run leg and Schoeman had some worries in the back of his mind. “I had some issues with energy intake in Auckland, so corrected that and felt much better throughout the run this time. I kept a comfortable gap between Richard and myself, knowing he has a very fast set of running legs. But I knew I had it on the last lap to I took its bit easier to save some strength for next weekend’s WTS.”

It’s also Schoeman’s third victory in Troutbeck. “The win means a lot to me after struggling with injuries over the last three months and with inconsistent training. Winning a big race like this is a great confidence booster going into Cape Town. Triathlon Zimbabwe were superb in their organisation of the race. I felt really at ease and only had my race to think about.”

For Murray’s part he believes that competing at high altitude was his Achilles Heel on the day. ÔÇ£It was a case of survival due┬áto lack of oxygen at 2100m elevation. My body was not happy after the first 400m and I struggled to get into any fast pace of swimming. I┬áopted to go slow and to go into autopilot mode, which was not very fast and seeing me more than a minute back off leader out the water.

ÔÇ£I felt good on the run, but being two minutes behind the leader at the start of the run on this kind of circuit, was too much to ask. Second place was a far sight off after the swim so I am pleased that I decided to keep going and see what I can do after such a dismal performance in the swim.ÔÇØ

As for Sanders it was the first time she had raced in Zimbabwe. “I’d heard how hard the course was, and made more so by the altitude,” she shared with Road to Rio 2016. I definitely felt the altitude in the swim and exited in third, a second behind Anel Radford and about 30sec behind Mari Rabie and Lauren Dance was just a second behind me.

“I’d discussed race tactics with my coach and with the Cape Town World series race so close we agreed we would use the race as a very good strength training session ÔÇô obviously trying to retain the African title but also not using too much energy. I was in a very fortunate position after the swim as Lauren and I didn’t panic and worked really well together reeling Mari in lap after lap.

“We caught her at the beginning of the last bike lap and then it was down to the run.

“Again, I tried to keep as much in reserve as possible and was happy to find myself in front for the whole run and claim my third consecutive African title. A big congrats to Lauren for a superb race to finish second.”

Sanders will now be hoping to maintain the status quo in terms of results.

“After three podiums in three races I’m hoping that I can retain this form into Cape Town and make the home crowds very proud!”


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