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Sullwald celebrates World Cup success in China

By Mark Etheridge

Former world junior triathlon champion, Wian Sullwald has notched up his first ever ITU World Cup victory, winning in Chengdu, China at the weekend.

Young Sullwald raced his first World Triathlon Series event in Cape Town last month where he placed 15th and gained some valuable experience racing against the world’s elite seniors.

The 21-year-old Marble Hall athlete clocked 1hr 48min 47sec for the 1500-metre swim, 40-kilometre cycle and 10km run, out kicking American Kevin McDowell by just one second.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” a pumped-up Sullwald told Road to Rio 2016 on Monday as he contemplated this weekend’s second WTS event, in Yokohama, Japan.

“Now I’m very confident for Yokohama, I just hope I’ll be able to be at my best, strong and fresh after Chengdu. I haven’t been there before but I’m very excited to race there.”

Speaking of the Chengdu event, which marked the city’s debut as a World Cup event, Sullwald said: “The course was really great. It was a man-made course specifically for triathlon to to race there was just awesome, a fast course with just three short, steep hills on the bike leg.”

Sullwald had some pre-race stress to deal with ahead of his big moment. “The 9am start was a bit early for my liking so I had to change my warm-up routine and I was last to join the line at the athlete’s lounge. I was a bit rushed and stressed to get my warm-up done. I headed down to the swim venue but was told I wasn’t allowed to swim yet. So I went for a run but still had to check into transition and rack my bike! Eventually when my swim was done I had some more time and calmed myself down, did some stretching and was eager to go.”

Sullwald then secured a good spot on the side of the swim-start pontoon and was soon in the top five swimmers. “We were swimming really fast but I felt very comfortable and just stuck close to the front keeping myself as fresh as possible.

“When we got to the first point where you could see athletes behind us, I saw that most athletes were very close to catching us, I was very surprised that everyone was so close after the swim as it was quite fast and before I knew it we were one massive pack on the bike.”

The South African then slotted in at the back of the pack to make it as easy as possible with Yokohama this weekend looming largee. “On the last two laps I got myself to the front of the pack to ensure that I can dismount into T2 in front.

“Coming towards the end of our cycle going for the run I was a bit worried because on my warm-up my legs were feeling very heavy and sluggish, But once we got onto the run I was immediately at the front going out hard but a bit conservative at the same time. Soon, I was actually feeling pretty good and I started running as hard as I could and kept to that pace trying to running away from however was running with me.”

Coming down to the last 2.5km, only Sullwald and McDowell were in contention for line honours. “He was putting in a lot of surges but I just stuck with him all the time and just before we got into the finish straight I surged past him and as we hit the blue carpet home straight I sprinted as fast as I could for my first world Cup victory. It was really a special moment ÔÇô I was chuffed and I immediately thought to myself, ‘okay I really need to back this performance up next week in Yokohama’.”

Sullwald and fellow South Africans Wicus Weber and Eddie van Heerden will now continue their training at their Chengdu hotel which conveniently has a 50m pool, before Sullwald and Weber head across to Japan on Thursday.

In Sunday’s race, Weber ended up 35th (1:51:08) and Van Heerden 49th (1:52:32). They also raced the Cape Town leg of the WTS.


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