Henri Schoeman out to crack Cape Discovery World Cup at third attempt
Henri Schoeman is bringing a touch of gold to the Discovery World Cup in Cape Town this afternoon as he attempts to bag his first win in his third start here.
Commonwealth Games champion Schoeman has finished second to Richard Murray in the Mother City for the past two years, but yesterday his compatriot withdrew from the race.
Murray injured his ankle on a training run while on camp in Windhoek two weeks ago, and then he picked up a stomach bug early in the week.
"This is not the way I would want to win - if I were to win," said Schoeman.
His Swift Carbon bike, which used to sport a tinge of bronze to reflect his third place at the 2016 Rio Olympics, has been upgraded to gold to match the colour of his medal from the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, last year.
"This year I'm hoping I can make it third time lucky, or third time hard work," said Schoeman, who hasn't had the perfect lead-in either. "I've had my injuries and illnesses in the build-up too."
NO ROOM FOR COMPLACENCY
Victory today in the sprint triathlon - the 750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run that was also employed at last year's Commonwealth Games - will offer valuable points towards qualification for the 2020 Olympics.
Yet the triathletes themselves still don't know over what distance they'll be racing in Tokyo - the traditional Olympic distance of 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run, or the sprint.
The reason for the uncertainty is that Tokyo will offer triathletes an opportunity for a second medal through a mixed-gender relay, which could see organisers cutting the individual races.
Triathletes are nearly halfway through their two-year qualifying window for Japan, with Schoeman lying 19th and Murray third.
They're both comfortably in the top 48 needed to secure their Olympic tickets, but Schoeman insists there's no room for complacency. "I know it should be easy for me, but you've got to make the most of every race because anything can happen - you can pick up an injury, you can have some bad luck."
Gillian Sanders, SA's top-ranked woman, is under way more pressure than her male counterparts, currently ranked 89th.
"I need to get three good scores before early May," said Sanders, 37, a lawyer focusing fulltime on the sport.
The first year of qualification ends after the first week of May, and the criteria dictate that athletes can not amass more than seven results from one 12-month period.
"You have to choose your races carefully," warned Sanders, who had contemplated retirement following two big crashes last year.
"But I rediscovered my passion for the sport."
Sanders is also eyeing a spot in the Olympic triathlon relay, where teams of two men and two women will compete in four high-intensity sprints.
With Schoeman and Murray finishing third and fourth in Rio, an SA contingent is considered a medal contender.
But two people don't always make a team; remember that SA swimming's 4x100m medley relay team, starring Chad Le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh, failed to make even the top eight at the last two Olympics.
Also competing today is SA's Youth Olympic Games champion Amber Schlebusch, but the teenager faces a long haul to reach the top of triathlon.
"She's fantastic," said Sanders. "We must be careful placing too much pressure on young athletes."