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Rabie and Sanders rake in more Rio Olympics ranking points
- Updated: May 10, 2016
By Mark Etheridge
South Africa’s leading female triathletes got in some more valuable training at the weekend as the Rio Olympics grow ever closer.
Both Mari Rabie and Gill Sanders were in World Cup action, on opposing sides of the world.
Rabie took part in the Huatulco leg in Mexico and Sanders was closer to her London base as she competed in Cagliari, Italy.
Stellenbosch based Rabie raced to sixth spot and Sanders was 13th in the European event.
Rabie clocked 2hr 15min 08sec to finish just over a minute adrift of Switzerland’s Jolanda Annen (2:14:06) after 1500m of swimming, 40km biking and 10km running.
Now, if anyone can ever use a hectic schedule as something of an excuse then it’s Rabie.
‘I’m a little disappointed but then again, I’m doing seven races in 10 weeks in six countries and have been racing non-stop since Abud Dhabi, so it’s a long stretch,’ she told Road to Rio 2016.
But after heart problems two years ago and the laborious process of accumulating points towards Olympic qualification, Rabie was left with no choice.
‘So I still picked up some very good points. The race was really hot and I suffered some serious heat exhaustion on the run, tingling limbs and not being able to feel my hands or feet.
‘World Cup racing is interesting as you normally find the weaker swimmers and stronger runners racing this race. So I had no-one to swim with and ended up riding the first two laps of the bike with only one other girl. On the run I was running with the front two up until four kilometres and then slowly faded.’
There’s no doubting that somewhere in the back of her mind there were seeds of apprehension lurking.
‘I was feeling terrible on the run and it was at this race two years ago that I damaged my heart. But I knew beforehand that a top eight finish would solidify my Olympic spot. So just made sure I stayed in the top eight.’
There’s little in the way of rest or respite for all-action Rabie now.
‘I now have a massive travel (four flights and lots of time zones) to Japan for the Yokohama World Series which will be the last race of the qualifying period and defending my Top 10 World Series ranking!’
In Italy, Sanders (pictured above) was racing a sprint event, half the Olympic distance disciplines, and clocked 1:05.44 as Britain’s India Lee won in 1:03:52.
‘I only decided on Wednesday to go and race,’ she told Road to Rio 2016. I had an extremely hard training week and was going to do a brick session/race simulation session this weekend and then figured, let me pop over to Italy as racing is the best training.
‘I had very heavy legs and it was an unforgiving bike course (1.5km climb on the bike in each of the four laps). But I loved it and was happy with how I felt on heavy legs.
‘Now it’s the last bit of hard work before Yokohama next weekend.’ Sanders heads east on Wednesday.
In the men’s race Sanders’ countryman Wian Sullwald hit a hiccup in his bid to qualify a slot for the Olympics as he failed to finish after a solid swim had seen him joint fifth out of the water.
The only other South African man in action was youngster Basson Engelbrecht who placed 30th in 58:43 as Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt won in 56:00.
Their respective finishes see Rabie moving up five slots to 42nd on the Olympic rankings and Sanders climbs two places to 33rd with just Yokohama left to accumulate points.
Yokohama has always been a happy hunting ground for Sanders with a 10th spot in 2014 and fifth place last year. She’ll be hoping for more of the same this weekend.
Picture of Sanders courtesy of ITU/Janos M. Schmidt