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Schoeman wins fourth African Champs as Rabie wins as well
- Updated: March 21, 2016
By Mark Etheridge
The force was with Henri Schoeman as he celebrated a fourth African Championships continental triathlon title in Buffalo City, Eastern Cape on Sunday.
The Durban-based ace clocked 2hr 00min 48sec to seal the win over 1500-metres of swimming, 40km of cycling and 10km of running in an event blasted by strong winds on the East London beachfront.
Runner-up was former world junior champion Wian Sullwald, who is on the way back after a knee injury. The hpc athlete clocked 2:04:05 with fellow hpc athlete Basson Engelbrecht third in 2:05:27.
‘It was a tough race,’ Schoeman told Road to Rio 2016. ‘My body was tired from training and I really struggled in the swim and beginning stages of the bike.
‘I began warming up during the end of the bike and I ran well considering.
‘It was a good test to see how the run progressed and I’m happy how I raced despite feeling sluggish. I’m really excited to retain the African title for a fourth time as well as clinching my second SA title.’
Sullwald won the African under-23 title for a third time and had reason to be happy with his performance after competing for the first time in nine weeks.
‘Naturally I was hoping for a top-three finish but I was not sure how my knee would hold up. I won’t say it was 100%. The big positive I can take from the race is that I was able to finish the 10km run without being in serious pain. However, I have to admit that Sunday’s run was certainly one of the hardest I have ever raced. The fact that I was only able to start running again last week definitely caught up with me. Over the last 5 kilometres I died bit by bit with each step I took.
“The important thing is that I gained valuable international ranking points which should enhance my chance to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio.’
Engelbrecht said afterwards that he was unhappy with the way his race played out. ’I really battled on the run and I’m not sure why. I’ll have to sit down with my coach, Lindsey Parry, to try and find out what went wrong. The positive for me is that I had a relatively good swim as well as a strong cycle.”
In the women’s race Gillian Sanders was unable to defend her continental title as the ever-improving Mari Rabie led from start to finish and clock a winning time of 2:15:03.
That put her 2:28 ahead of Sanders as Cindy Schwulst completed the podium in 2:20:16.
A happy Rabie told Road to Rio 2016: ‘East London went well… it was really windy which counted in my favour as I seem to perform better in (or maybe just deal better with) adverse conditions (extreme heat, cold, wind etc).
‘The plan was just go out from the start and see if anyone could swim with me on the first lap which they couldn’t. So on the second swim lap I decided it would be a solo mission and had about a minute on Alexandra Quenet and Gillian.’
Quenet is Rabie’s swimming partner from Stellenbosch, only took up triathlon a year ago, and nabbed the U23 title on Sunday.
‘On the bike I just put my head down and worked hard,’ Rabie continued. ‘The coach and I had a very good and clear cut plan and I just did my best to execute that. I had a 3:45 lead off the bike on the group which contained Gillian, Lauren Dance, Carlyn Fischer and others.
‘On the run I got news from Australia via my dad just to run it tempo-style as I fly to Australia on Monday to meet up with my squad and some racing Down Under.
‘So overall I’m very happy to execute this race so well and show that I’m pretty solid across all three at the moment. Also importantly I got the African Olympic slot as well as 400 Olympic rankings points!’
Meanwhile Sanders was disappointed at not being able to rack a fifth continental title but still happy at reeling some more Olympic ranking points.
‘The swim was unfortunately a bit long… more like 1800m instead of 1500m. This benefited Mari, being such a great swimmer. I was stuck in no-man’s land between Mari and the other girls two minutes back.
‘Anel [Radford] had to withdraw last minute due to fractured ribs. She’s normally my ally on the bike but today not so, unfortunately. Mari biked very well and the gap was just too much to catch her on the run.
‘I gained nearly two minutes but not quite enough. So a very interesting and rather weird race. I’m happy with the Olympic points though. It puts me nicely in 26th on the rankings which should alleviate any type of qualification pressure now so I can chill out and continue to totally prep for Rio.’
For her part Radford heads back home to Sydney in frustrated frame after not being able to start. I got kicked in the ribs in the swim in the Mooloolaba World Cup last weekend [she went on to finish 26th] and have been in a lot of pain and discomfort this week
‘ I was doing everything I could to give the ribs a chance to heal and give myself a chance to race. Unfortunately I had to pull out of the race after the race warm-up. I was still not able to put any pressure on the handlebars on the bike and swimming was impossible. I ‘m extremely disappointed but I was unfortunately in no position to race. It looks like these ribs need more than the week I was willing to give them.’
Radford now returns Down Under where she’ll get medical opinion to check that there’s not more damage than first thought. ‘I’m really disappointed with the fact that I couldn’t race. It was a great opportunity for me to score good points. Training has been going well and I’m in good form. I had to give myself every chance to start yesterday which is why I only decided after race warm-up whether I could race or not. Very frustrating but that’s sport I guess.’
Picture of a triumphant Schoeman, courtesy of Alan Eason