Murray claims bronze at the Gold Coast WTS Grand Final

Murray claims the bronze medal at the 2018 WTS Grand Final at Gold Coast, Australia. (Wagner Arujo photography for ITU media.)

After three days of epic triathlon racing at Surfer’s Paradise in Gold Coast Australia, there is much to report. On Friday, 14 September the U23 elite triathletes took the plunge into the warm waters of East Australian coastline. Four South African men and one South African woman competed against the best in the world to see how they would fare. Dylan Nortjé, Rinaldo Morgia, Matthew Greer and Darren Marquis dived off the pontoon to start their race among 48 other competitors. Exiting the water in a time of 18:49, Nortjé made the second bike pack. Morgia swam a time of 18:53 and fed into the third bike pack. Marquiss swam a time of 20:10, which sadly meant he missed the pack onto the bike course. Having cycled solo for 5 of the 8 laps, he was caught by the leaders and lapped out of the race. Unfortunately sustaining an injury during the swim, Greer also ended up alone on the bike course, and was lapped out of the race. Nortjé lost the tail end of the chase pack after narrowly avoiding a crash that had unfolded ahead of him, and joined the third pack that Morgia was in. Onto the run, Nortjé worked his way up the field into 31st place, finishing with a 10km run time of 34:28- giving him an overall time of 1:50:11. Morgia battled with an Achilles injury on the run, but was elated to have finished the race in 41st in a time of 1:56:33. The race was won by New Zealand’s Tayler Reid, second was awarded to Samuel Dickinson of Great Britain and rounding off the podium was Bence Bicsak from Hungary.

In the U23 women’s race, South Africa’s Shanae Williams was off to an unfortunate start, having swum a time of 19:51 which was not her usual swimming self. Onto the bike, Williams was without a pack and regrettably lapped out of the race. USA’s Taylor Knibb won the U23 women’s race in a time of 1:53:47, followed by France’s Cassandre Beaugrand in second. Third was claimed by Angelico Olmo of Italy.

Saturday, 15 September was time for the junior showdown as well as the Elite women’s race. Four South African junior elite triathletes competed. Ashleigh Irvine-Smith and Bridget Theunissen raced in the junior women’s race. Smith was the first of the two out the water, having swum a time of 10:26 and hopping onto her bike in 29th position. Theunissen’s cycle split was the fourth fastest on the day, 29:55. She managed to run herself up to 22nd place, finishing the race in a time of 1:01:21 (Theunissen’s run split was 19:28). Smith completed the cycle in a time of 30:22. Out on the run course, she ran into 42nd place- finishing her run in a time of 21:43 and clocking an overall time of 1:03:42. Mexico’s Cecilia Ramirez Alavez won the junior women’s race in a time of 59:11. Second was claimed by Erin Wallace from Great Britain and third place was awarded to Wallace’s fellow countrywoman Kate Waugh.

In the junior men’s race, Jamie Riddle and Ben de la Porte were the 39th and 40th ranked respectively. Exiting the water just 15 seconds apart, Riddle exited the water first of the two in 6th place with a time of 8:56. De la Porte and Riddle ended up cycling together, with de la Porte clocking a 27:22 cycle split and Riddle biking a 27:35. Onto the run, de la Porte ran his way to a 32nd place in a run time of 17:38 and overall time of 55:14. Riddle finished in 39th place in a run time of 18:33 and overall time of 56:02. Hungary’s Csongor Lehmann won the junior men’s race in a time of 52:49. Second was claimed by Paul Georgenthum from France and third place was awarded to Germany’s Philipp Wiewald.

In the elite women’s race, South Africa’s Gill Sanders competed in her 8th consecutive Grand Final, and Anel Radford raced in her country of residence. Radford exited the water in a time of 19:43, just 16 seconds behind the leaders (USA’s Katie Zaferes and GBR’s Vicky Holland and Jessica Learmonth). About 40 of the triathletes exited the water within 30 seconds of one another! Out on the bike course the chase pack caught up with the leaders. Radford finished her cycle in a time of 1:00:22. Sanders finished her swim in a time of 20:17, and fell in with the Ashleigh Gentle pack on the cycle. Sanders entered T2 with a bike time of 59:52. Radford and Sanders were out on the run course within 7 seconds of each other, Sanders the leading South African. Sanders had a run split of 39:13. She finished the race in a time of 2:00:26, putting her in 45th position. Radford clocked a 41:42 run leg, placing her 49th in an overall time of 2:03:01. Australia’s Gentle won the race in front of her home crowd in a time of 1:52:00. Second, and claiming the series win was Great Britain’s Holland. Rounding off the Grand Final podium and second in the series was USA’s Zaferes. Third in the series was awarded to Great Britain’s Georgia Taylor-Brown.

Sunday, September 16 was the much anticipated elite men’s race as well as the U23/ junior mixed team relay. South Africa’s mixed relay team consisted of Shanae Williams, Dylan Nortjé, Bridget Theunissen and Ben de la Porte. Starting the race off was U23 Williams, whose swim was incredible, exiting the water with France’s Sandra Dodet and New Zealand’s Ainsley Thorpe in a time of 3:09 and in 4th position. In an unfortunate crash, Williams lost a lot of time on the bike, and miraculously managed to finish her run leg. Nortjé made a desperate attempt to catch up to the leaders in his relay leg- and his splits were impressive when compared to the leading times. The gap was too large to make up however, and Theunissen was lapped out on the bike course. Williams was seen to by the medical team and after some assistance, has her shoulder in a sling awaiting final results.

Richard Murray and Henri Schoeman went into the men’s grand final ranked 4th and 7th respectively. Out of the water in a time of 18:33, Schoeman was lying third just seconds behind Richard Varga (SVK) and Vincent Luis (FRA). Schoeman headed out of T1 to cycle in the lead pack. Murray was 50 seconds down on the leaders out the water and made the third pack on the bike. With Belgium’s Marten Van Riel making an early break away on the bike and Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt catching Van Riel, the gap on the chase pack grew. Meanwhile Murray was slowly moving up the ranks with his cycle pack nearing the leaders. On the last lap Murray made it into the chase pack and onto the run with fellow South African Schoeman, Spain’s Mario Mola and Luis in pursuit of the leading Blummenfelt. Murray’s bike split was a second fastest of the day- 54:23, only 20 seconds down on Blummenfelt’s time. Running together for the first half of the race, with the exception of an impressive surge by Schoeman, the pack caught Blummenfelt. With a few kilometres to go Murray, Mola and Luis were the leading trio. When the final lap bell rang, Mola and Luis gave a kick and battled it out for the grand final victory. Luis finished the race first in a total time of 1:44:34 and claimed the series second place. Mola claimed the silver medal on the day and his third consecutive WTS series victory in a finish time of 1:44:48. Murray wrapped up the podium in third with a run time of 30:08 and held on to his series ranking of 4th place with an overall time of 1:44:56. Schoeman finished the race in 6th position and finished the WTS season in a series ranking of 7th place with an overall time of 1:45:06. Murray said in his post-race interview that he was elated with the race, having worked the hardest he’d ever cycled on the bike, pulling off a massive feat to finish third on the day. Murray added that among the highlights of his season, third at the grand final, winning his first Olmypic distance triathlon and that his girlfriend Rachel Klamer had agreed to marry him, were the top things on the list. Murray and Schoeman are set to compete at the Superleague Triathlon in Jersey next, where the swim-bike-run format of racing is turned on its head, making for exciting viewership!