By Masa Takaya on 30/06/11 at 10:26 pm
Emerging athletes from a record seven countries - South Africa, Mauritius, Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Morocco and Egypt - are set to compete in Elite, Under 23 and Junior categories at the 2011 ATU Triathlon African Championships in Maputo, Mozambique, this weekend.
The coastal capital facing the Indian Ocean is also the host city for the 10th All African Games scheduled for 3-18 September this year. Athletes will feel some of the atmosphere that the most prestigious event in the continent could bring to the city this fall.
South Africans have been dominating the continent for nearly a decade, and it is most likely the nation will sweep the titles again in the elite races. Members of the powerful squad are double African champion in 2010 and 2009 Erhard Wolfaardt (RSA), 2008 African champion Hendrik De Villiers (RSA), and Richard Murray (RSA), who recently conquered a tough field at the 2011 Brasschaat ITU Triathlon Premium European Cup.
Meanwhile, it is pretty likely that three-time African champion Kate Roberts (RSA), who was ranked seventh in the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Series final standings last year, will be crowned again, as the only other woman competing in the Elite field is Gillian Sanders (RSA), who participated in the Dextro Energy Triathlon Series only once last year, in London.
“The ATU is very happy with what we have achieved so far. Apart from realising our main strategic goal on time, we also have the opportunity to showcase Triathlon to the Continent through the African sport structures and NOCs,” ATU President Liesbeth Stoltz said. “In her acceptance speech (December 2008) ITU President Marisol Casado asked us to use events to promote and develop the sport in new regions. I cannot think of a better example of what we are achieving in Africa through our participation in the African Games.”
South Africa to go for gold, but who?
Double African champion in 2010 and 2009 Erhard Wolfaardt (RSA) and 2008 African champion Hendrik De Villiers (RSA) are considered clear favorites, finishing 27th and 22nd respectively at the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Grand Final Budapest last year. The 22-year-old Richard Murray, who was the 2008 and 2007 ITU Duathlon Junior World Champion, can steal the top spot on the podium as he won the 2011 Brasschaat ITU Triathlon Premium European Cup last month in a relatively strong field. Murray negotiated the 10km run in 29 minutes and 54 seconds, edging out powerhouses such as Frenchman Vincent Luis (FRA) and 2007 world champion Daniel Unger (GER).
Abrahm Louw (NAM), the promising hope of Namibia
The 19-year-old Louw is entered in the U-23 event, which will be racing together with the elite field. Can he beat the older kids in the sandbox? Louw is a member of Team ITU, a support project for talented athletes in emerging and developing national federations. He was awarded the London 2012 Olympic Scholarship by the IOC’s Olympic Solidarity World Programme Fund. Louw’s performance has improved dramatically since he took up the sport at age 15. Last year, he finished fifth at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore and 18th at the Dextro Energy Triathlon ITU World Championship Grand Final Budapest in the Junior category.
The Elite & U23 Men’s race is set to start at 7:30 a.m. (UTC/GMT +2) on Sunday, while the Elite & U23 Women’s race will start at 7:45 a.m. (UTC/GMT +2). Race results will be up on triathlon.org. Follow @ituonline and @triathlonlive to see race actions and interactive text updates.
Find more details about this event - 2011 Maputo ATU Triathlon African Championships