Schlebusch delivers amazing victory at the Youth Olympics

Amber Schlebusch grabs the tape and runs her way to claim Youth Olympic Games triathlon victory in Buenos Aires. Wagner Arujo for ITU media.

At 17 years old, Amber Schlebusch has had a phenomenal triathlon season. To end off a great international year, Schlebusch pulled out all the stops to win the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games triathlon on the 7 October in Argentina. This is South Africa’s first Youth Olympic Games gold medal in the triathlon. This victory comes just a few weeks after being named the Kwa Zulu Natal ‘Junior Sportswoman of the Year’ for 2018.

“I’m in this sort of disbelief right now, it feels amazing I really can’t believe it. Now I can say I’m the Youth Olympic champion, it’s a pretty good title to have so I’m really stoked. I have no words. I’m really really happy to end up feeling really strong,” recounts Schlebusch of her race.

Schlebusch is elated to have won the gold medal. Wagner Arujo for ITU media.

Facing chilly water conditions, Amber was displeased with her 750m swim, despite exiting the water in the top six ladies with a time of 9:59. With two athletes (Sif Bendix Madsen of Denmark and Anja Weber of Switzerland) in the lead, the chase pack was unable to close over the technical 20km cycle course. This left just the run leg for Schlebusch to close a gap. Dismounting her bicycle some 37 seconds behind the leaders, Schlebusch picked off her opponents one by one. While the Dane was having a phenomenal run in the lead, Schlebusch had caught up to Bendix Madsen with 500m of the 5km run left to go. Schlebusch pushed to a fastest run of the day with a time of 17:15. In disbelief of what she had just accomplished, Schlebusch crossed the finish line first in a time of 58:47, with the Bendix Madsen in second and Weber rounding off the podium in third. Interestingly the top 3 of the race were all born in the same week of July 2001.

Medalists of the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games. Wagner Arugo for ITU media.

Schlebusch acknowledged that her weakest discipline would mean she would have to work hard in the latter part of the race to catch up. “I knew that my weakest part was the swim. In the back of the bike pack nobody was really working so it was quite hard to close on the first two. The run is where I put most of my confidence. I just decided to catch them one by one. Take each one as it comes. It worked. I hadn’t ever seen these athletes before when I raced in Europe, so I didn’t really know how they could run. I could see them in front though, even if they were quite far, they were about 30 seconds in front of me just off the bike. I tried to close down and that managed to work. I wasn’t expecting a medal; I was expecting a top 10 finish. I wanted a top 10 quite badly, but this is even better.”

Youth Olympic Games ladies diving into the start of the triathlon. Image from www.olympic.org.

Into transition 2 after the cycle. Wagner Arujo for ITU media.

Running to victory. Wagner Arujo for ITU media.