SA triathlete Sanders wants upgrade from silver to gold

09 February 2018 - 10:29
By David Isaacson
Fireworks light up the sky during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, on August 3, 2014.
Image: Andy Buchanan / AFP Fireworks light up the sky during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Hampden Park in Glasgow, Scotland, on August 3, 2014.

Triathlete Gillian Sanders fondly remembers the mixed relay silver medal she won at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow‚ but now she wants to upgrade to gold.

She and Kate Roberts combined with Richard Murray and Henri Schoeman to finish second in Scotland behind powerhouse England‚ starring the unbeatable Brownlee brothers.

“That’s one of the highlights of my career‚” Sanders said ahead of the Discovery World Cup in Cape Town on Sunday. “We were underdogs‚ no-one expected us to medal. I think that made it all the more special. Yeah‚ everything just went our way on the day of the race.”

Now‚ she’s eyeing a step up to the top of the podium at the 2018 edition in Gold Coast‚ Australia‚ in April. “Hopefully we can go one better in Australia.”

And why not? Murray and Schoeman have improved on the world circuit — Murray is frequently competing for top-three spots‚ although he was pushed into fourth by Schoeman at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

And Sanders‚ an attorney who quit the the legal profession to become a professional athlete‚ is clawing her way up the world rankings. She ended 2017 in 23rd‚ up 20 spots from 2016.

“Triathlon is something you need to commit to 100% from a time perspective. We’re doing probably five or six hours training a day so we need the recovery and that’s probably the main issue.

“You can’t hold down a fulltime job and expect to do all those hours of training and then try and get the recovery as well‚” said Sanders‚ who also ended 23rd at the Rio Olympics.

Sanders‚ 36‚ needed to be ranked in the top 10 of the Commonwealth to be selected for South Africa for Australia‚ and that‚ she insists‚ puts her in the mix for an individual medal too.

The Cape Town race on Sunday is perfect preparation‚ because it is a sprint triathlon — 750 metres‚ the cycle is 20km and the run is 5km — the same distance they will race at the Games.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what happens on Sunday.”

With Roberts having retired after Glasgow‚ Simone Ackermann is the second female in the South African Games triathlon team and she too will be in action on Sunday.

In the men’s race Schoeman is looking to eradicate some errors that may have cost him the win over Murray in 2017.

“It all came down to the run. I messed up getting my helmet off‚ slow transition‚ but I had a good race — we all had a good race — and this year I just want to focus on executing the best race possible‚ make sure that I minimise the mistakes and give 100%.

“It’s also a bit of tester to see where we are in terms of going to the Commonwealth Games‚ make sure we’re in good shape and if there’s anything that’s lacking we learn from that.”