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Sanders upbeat about SA triathlon but says funding will be vital
- Updated: November 19, 2014
By Mark Etheridge
As one year ends and another begins, Commonwealth silver medallist Gillian Sanders is confident that South African triathlon is experiencing a new dawn.
Sanders was part of the SA quartet that raced to second place in the team event in Glasgow. That after Richard Murray had bagged a bronze medal two days previously.
Since the Games Schoeman went on to win a World Cup event in Korea, keeping the SA flag flying high. There was also success for former junior world champion, young Wian Sullwald as he won a World Cup of his own.
Sanders, who had a top 10 World Triathlon Series finish as well as a top 10 World Cup placing, says things are certainly looking up.
‘I definitely think there is more confidence among us athletes internationally. A few years ago it was just Katie Roberts and Hendrik de Villiers who were able to perform on the international stage. Fast forward about six years and we now have three men ranked in the top 30 in the world and consistently performing on the international stage,’ she told Road to Rio 2016.
‘Let’s not forget that at the London Olympics, Richard, Kate and myself finished 17th, 21st and 19th respectively, the best ever performance at an Olympics and a vast improvement from previous games, showing a rapid increase in performance over four years.
‘Now, in Rio I would expect us to perform even better given this pattern and hopefully bring home some silverware. I think the two Commonwealth medals this year were massive.
‘It finally put South Africa on the map as a major player. As athletes it’s given us confidence and I hope it has inspired the upcoming generation. A lot of the younger athletes know us all very well and hopefully they too will believe they can make it internationally.’
However there is also a dark lining to the cloud that the sport seems to find itself on these days and that is a financial one.
‘The only problem we seem to have cropping up now is lack of funding. Our federation hasn’t received any money for nearly two years and this is now starting to have an effect. Kate has had to bin her Rio 2016 aspirations as she simply cannot afford to get to races. Our guys are very strong but at this stage it looks like I am the only female anywhere near to Rio qualification which is a bit of a worry for the future of girls in SA triathlon.
‘If we could find some financial backing, it would mean more girls could get to international races to gain experience and ultimately gain Olympic qualification points. For those who are not on SASCOC’s OPEX programme, its very tough out there.’
Currently Murray (who ended the year in the top 10 of the WTS rankings for the second successive year) is the only triathlete on the OPEX list.