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Sanders tastes maiden World Cup success in Salinas
- Updated: September 26, 2016
By Mark Etheridge
The good things just keep coming for South African triathlon… the latest was in South America at the weekend.
After Henri Schoeman won Team SA’s first ever Olympic triathlon medal in Rio last month, he went on to record a maiden World Triathlon Series win at the season’s grand final in Cozumel, Mexico last weekend.
This weekend it was the turn of Gillian Sanders to chalk up her name on the board of SA triathlon history.
She raced the ITU World Cup sprint event in Salinas, Ecuador at the weekend where she filled the last step of the podium and won herself and the country a bronze medal.
Americans Kirsten Kasper and Summer Cook took gold and silver in 59min 16 and 59:23 respectively with Sanders just eight seconds slower than Cook.
There was also another top 10 finish for Sanders’ fellow Rio Olympian Mari Rabie in sixth spot (a second over the 60min barrier).
Believe it or not but that bronze is the first World Cup podium since 1993, something Sanders is now well aware of. ‘It’s about time us girls started catching up with the boys and getting on WC and WTS podiums. I had a really bad day out in Cozumel so I wanted to make amends and finish the season on a high.
‘I also really wanted a podium finish. I had a good swim, bike and run.
‘My legs didn’t feel great on the first lap of the run but at 2.5km they felt good and I knew then that I could get on the podium. I’m just super happy to finish the season on a high.’
Her podium efforts were worth $4500 and it was a fitting manner to end her season. ‘I’m done now. I could carry on but the season starts so early next year. There’s a WC in Cape Town in Feb and then the first WTS in Abu Dhabi early March so I’ll be thinking of doing both of those.’
As for Rabie, she wrapped up her season with yet another solid performance to give SA a second top-10 placing.
‘I’ve been struggling with health since Rio so it’s been a battle to just get through these races as I was not myself going into them. But did a good job of hanging on!
‘Last weekend in Cozumel heat took a lot out of me – and that was evident as everyone who raced well at World Champs did not race so well here. But to come 11th in the World Series Grand Finale with Henri winning and Richard fourth must have been one of our greatest World Series grand finales ever. I think triathlon is in a good place in South Africa.
‘But that said I had a super consistent season – finishing Top 20 in all my World Series races and Top 10 in the lower standard World Cups. I was awarded ‘biggest mover from 2015-2016 on the World Series rankings from 106th to 16th.
‘I have not DNF’d in any races and managed to be OK even on the bad days like yesterday. So yes I think it is a good spot to walk away from the sport. I’m so so tired now and need a rest. It was a crazy year chasing points to qualify – and then to perform at the Games. I only start work October so these last couple of races were just to have fun make a bit of money!’
There was only one SA representative in the men’s race in the shape of young Wian Sullwald. He ended 28th in 55:06 as Spain’s David Castro Fajardo won in 53.33. At the grand final in Cozumel he had been South Africa’s best finisher apart from Schoeman, emulating Rabie’s 11th spot as he raced the U23 men’s division.
Picture of Sanders on the podium courtesy of ITU Media