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SA athletes shine with heaps of medals at African Championships

By Mark Etheridge

South Africa’s triathletes won the bulk of medals up for grabs at the weekend’s ATU African Championships in Yasmine Hammamet, Tunisia.

It was two-time Olympian Gill Sanders who led the way, with victory in the elite women’s category as she notched up another continental title.

She clocked 2hr 01min 02sec for the 1500-metre swim, 40km cycle and 10km run.

Italian Ilaria Zane was second, just two seconds slower, and Sanders’ South African team-mate Carlyn Fischer rounded off the podium with third place in 2:02:13.

There were also top-10 places for Australia-based Anel Radford (fourth). Under-23 racers Celeste Renaud, Jodie Berry and Madelaine le Roux  were fifth, sixth and seventh respectively.

Sanders, back at her London base, before heading east for this weekend’s WTS race in Yokohama, Japan, was well satisfied with the victory. ‘The race went exactly to plan. I managed a break away with Anel and Ilaria on the swim and bike and could do a tempo  run and not expend too much energy for Yokohama.

‘It was very hot though. I outsprinted the Italian girl in the last 200m as I wanted to win overall too. It’s good to get a fifth African title, so I’m happy. Now it’s time to recover and get ready for Yokohama.’

Cape Town’s Renaud clocked 2:05:42, Berry 2:08:32 and African Youth Games champion Le Roux 2:15:33.

Renaud was the first Under-23 racer. ‘I really enjoyed the race on Sunday. The wind made for slightly more challenging conditions on the swim and bike, but helped with the heat on the run. The water was surprisingly choppy for the shores of a Mediterranean tourist destination.

‘I was happy to make the second pack with Carlyn and Jodie out the water. Those ladies biked so strongly on the fast and flat course – I really had to work hard to keep up.

‘We ended up making some time on the front pack on the bike. The run was also fast and flat. I’m still getting used to the Olympic distance, so tried to keep things comfortable on the first two laps of the four-lap course, and then open up the gas for the last two.

‘I was so pleased to cross the line as first U23, and so stoked to share the U23 podium with Jodie and Madeleine. Congrats to the top SA elites, Gillian, Carlyn and Anel, for their blitzing races.’

Le Roux has had an up and down year year, struggling with dental and health problems, and although those issues appear to have improved she had the additional mental stress of her baggage going missing en route from South Africa and only arriving the day before the race.

‘It was a rough day,’ she said. The sea was rough, there were strong currents and I swallowed lots of water.

‘On the bike I was on my own again and struggled against the wind. On the run my stomach wasn’t great – it felt like I had a bubble in me. But I pushed on to finish third.’

There was more glory for the girls as 2014 Youth Olympian Jayme-Sue Vermaas won the juniors category (750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run) in 1:00:10 from compatriots Gizelda Strauss (1:02:26) and Tegan Gore (1:03:20) respectively.

medal

Back in her Bloemfontein base Vermaas (pictured with Gore and Strauss) said: ‘This was my last ATU Africa Triathlon championship as a Junior, and I was very happy to be part of the junior team that was selected to represent Triathlon South Africa at this championship.

‘I had an awesome experience racing in Tunisia. I’ve had an excellent season so far, and after winning the National Champs in South Africa, as well as the Junior Event in Zimbabwe, my goal was to add to my collection, the win at the Africa Championship.

‘We woke up the morning to strong winds and a choppy sea, which would make for a hard day of racing. The swim was tough, with  a Tunisia girl showing her swim strength.  I went hard on the bike to establish a break, which I was able to keep till the end. My legs felt good and I managed to have good run and take the win for Triathlon South Africa, and be crowned the ATU 2017Africa Junior Champ.

‘My fellow teammate, Gizelda Strauss and Tegan Gore (in her first year as junior and first ATU Africa Champs) showed their talent and that Tegan is a champ for the future.

‘They both excelled  and and placed second and third respectively, making it a clean sweep on the podium for Triathlon South Africa, and locking in three slots for South African representation at the upcoming World Championship later this year.

‘The event was well-organised by the Tunisia Triathlon Federation, and we as athletes had full road closure. The strong winds made it difficult for both organisers and athletes, as the banner tape and barriers were all over the cycle course due to the wind. But kudos to the marshals, who did their utmost best to keep us athletes safe on the day. And also giving us a wonderful race venue.

‘And also a big shout-out to Kate Roberts [two-time Olympian], our team manager, for all her effort and input to make the experience great. Also once-again a big thank you to TSA and the management for selecting me, to be able to represent the sport triathlon and  Triathlon South Africa at this event.

‘Now it is back to the drawing board and start preparing for the upcoming races which will include a junior tour of Europe later this year.

In the men’s events, U23 race Keegan Cooke was also SA’s top elite finisher in eight spot (1:53:30) as Russia’s Alexander Bryukhankov won in 1:47:01.

But there was a gold medal for Matthew Greer in the junior men’s race as he covered the 750 swim, 20km bike and 5km run in 55:03.

Said the Centurion athlete (pictured on the podium above): ‘ I competed against some of the top juniors in Africa. Countries represented were South Africa, Tunisia, Morocco, Mauritius and Jordan.

‘For me, it wasn’t the perfect race, but thanks to previous experience I could come back from some setbacks during the race. I had an issue running into the water at the start of the race, which put me on the back foot early on in the race.

‘I was able to recover and then had a strong swim enabling me to come out of the water 15 seconds behind the two leaders, Tim Hugnin from Mauritius and Farih Amine from Morocco.

‘I had to work hard on the bike to catch the two leaders.  Once I joined the leaders, Hugnin and I then worked very hard together to distance ourselves from the rest of the field.

‘Luckily for me, Hugnin could shout in French to try and encourage the Moroccan to also help in the pacing. It was however, only the two of us who could keep up the pace.

‘Coming off the bike and starting the run leg, Hugnin and I were neck and neck. After about a kilometre into the run, I started pulling away from him. I felt strong and was able to build a lead of 30 seconds and went on to win.’

In the main picture (from left to right): Le Roux, Berry, Fischer, Sanders, Radford and Renaud


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