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Multi-talented Strauss, Le Roux show that the future’s bright
- Updated: May 4, 2016
The fact that Gizelde Strauss (TuksSport High School) finds it hard to resist a good challenge is probably one of the reasons for her regular appearances on podiums at triathlon events.
With this teenager it appears to be a case of the tougher the challenge the better the performance. Strauss was the winner of the Under-19 girl’s race at the recent Discovery ITU World Triathlon held in Cape Town. Earlier she won the South African triathlon title in the 16-17 years age group.
Last year she was junior world duathlon champion (running and cycling) as well as South Africa’s junior triathlon champion.
While still at primary school Strauss excelled in swimming, athletics, duathlon, biathlon (swimming and running), hockey and netball. A definite highlight for her was winning a silver medal in her age group at the World Biathlon Championships.
The challenge of having to master three sports (rather than two) to be competitive was probably the reason for her eventual decision to focus only on triathlons.
‘Triathlon is a very unpredictable sport. Something unforeseen can happen at any moment and then you have to be ready to react.
‘One of the most important things my coach, Kate Roberts (Tuks/HPC) [who was a two-time Olympic triathlete herself] keeps emphasising is that even the best-laid plans can go awry during a race. It is how you react to a setback that makes the difference between being just another athlete or becoming a champion,’ said the TuksSport High School Grade 11 learner.
Strauss had a first-hand experience of what Roberts was talking about during the African Junior Championship. She was up with the leaders after finishing the cycling leg when she was challenged by an unforeseen setback.
While she was running with her bike to the transition area, one of her cycling shoes unclipped from the pedals and fell to the ground. Strauss had no other option than to turn back and pick up her shoe. But, in spite of losing valuable seconds to the race leaders she still managed to finish third.
In what was a difficult decision it was decided that Strauss won’t defend her junior duathlon world title in Spain in June.
‘There are still moments when I regret that I won’t be able to compete at the World Duathlon Championships, but an athlete sometimes has to decide what is the most important. Triathlon is the sport in which I really want to excel. At the moment I’m able to run and cycle with the best but I still need to work a bit harder on my swimming.
‘So instead of trying to defend my world title I am going to work towards becoming a faster swimmer. If I can do so there is good chance that I will be competitive at the Triathlon World Championships.’
It should be no surprise that Strauss considers Gwen Jorgensen (USA), a two-times world champion, as her role model. ‘What I admire about Jorgensen is that she sets herself goals and then works very hard to achieve it.’
Meanwhile, Road to Rio 2016’s Mark Etheridge reports that African Youth Games triathlon champion Madelaine le Roux is back on the road to recovery after breaking her collarbone in Chicago, US last year.
Le Roux crashed on the bike leg of the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final event in September.
But she ended second to Strauss in the Under-19 age-group race of the Discovery World Triathlon in Cape Town and feels that she’s getting back to her old form, despite picking up a bloodied toe in T1 (Transition One zone) as she came out of the water of the slightly shortened swim.
‘The shoulder is now strong again.. although I can still feel it now and then as there’s still a plate in the bone. That plate must stay in place for a minimum of a year and then we’ll hear what the doctor says. If it doesn’t bug me too much it can stay in,’ laughed the Jono Rumbelow-coached athlete.
Looking ahead and Europe is beckoning. ‘I’m planning on going to world duathlon champs in Spain next month and then staying on for a few weeks to do three triathlons, but must first get my hands on some money for that.’
As usual funding remains a thorn in the side for South African athletes. ‘I also want to got to Mexico later this year for triathlon world championships but that’s looking dodgy as it sounds like it will cost around R70,000!
‘So that’s why we’re leaning towards duathlon worlds as then I’m already in Europe for the three triathlon races.’
Away from the sports field, after still getting A marks for three subjects in matrix last year, Le Roux has swopped school for the ETA Sports College in Bloemfontein where she’s doing a two-year diploma in sports conditioning.
‘It’s working out well because they give me plenty of time for my sport.’
Picture of Strauss courtesy of Reg Caldecott and of Le Roux by Brakkies Sport Fotos