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Sullwald in search of Rio qualification spot in Italy
- Updated: May 6, 2016
For South African Under-23 triathlon champion, Wian Sullwald the next 12 days will boil down to the simple slogan: ‘Go big or stay home’.
The Tuks/HPC athlete’s performances at the Cagliari World Cup in Italy on Sunday and next Saturday’s World Series event in Yokohama will determine whether or not he qualifies for the Olympic Games in Rio.
Sullwald’s current ranking of 57th on the International Triathlon Union’s Olympic ranking list is not good enough and he needs to improve by 17 positions at least .
But all is not lost. Lindsey Parry (head coach at Tuks/HPC) is confident that it’s still possible for Sullwald to qualify but it is not going to be easy.
‘If Wian can get a top 10 finish in Italy and finish in the top 20 in Yokohama he will have done what is needed. A top five finish on Sunday will be even better because then he will not be under so much pressure in Japan.’
However, what will make things tough for Sullwald is that, with less than two weeks to go in the two-year Olympic qualification process, pressure is at an all-time high. The men’s start list will certainly be loaded with athletes who are on the verge of making their Olympic dreams come true.
Sullwald’s performance at the World Series event in Cape Town two weeks ago was disappointing. He finished 30th, nearly 90 seconds behind Spain’s winner, Fernando Alarza.
According to Parry, Sullwald made a mistake in the transition from the swim to the cycle. ‘This meant that he was not with the race leaders on the 20km cycle. There was no recovery after that. The cruel reality of racing at the highest level is that there is no margin for error. Every second counts.’
Sullwald told Road to Rio 2016’s Mark Etheridge from Cagliari: ‘Sunday is a big day… really want to secure my Rio qualification.
‘I think a top five should be enough to do the job and then I must maintain form for next week in Yokohama.’
The Pretoria athlete has been plagued by injuries and illness for a large part of his career. He had knee problems leading up to the Cape Town leg of the WTS last month and then a stomach bug on his way back to South Africa from China. ‘Everything’s OK now so just holding thumbs.’
Sunday’s race in Italy will again be a sprint triathlon (750m swim, 18km cycle and 5km run).
Basson Engelbrecht (Tuks/HPC), who finished 44th in Cape Town, will also race on Sunday. According to Parry, Engelbrecht also made a mistake in the first transition which put him out of contention.
‘In Basson’s case it can still be understood. He is only 21 and is still learning his trade. He did not have the best of swims, which caused him to panic and make a mistake during the transition. I am confident that it will not happen again.’