A TOTAL OF 16 development athletes will be out to show their mettle when they compete in the Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa in Nelson Mandela Bay under the SA Triathlon Development (SATD) banner next Sunday.
The aim of the programme is to uplift and support previously disadvantaged athletes, and those who have the potential to become world-class athletes in either Ironman or over the Olympic distance.
“Eighty per cent of the people who start with us had to learn how to swim and ride a bike,” Ironman SA race director Paul Wolff said, emphasising the many obstacles these athletes have had to conquer and how they have excelled in accomplishing their goals and dreams.
SATD coach and manager, Alan Timms, said they usually attended the various races to identify talent and athletes who had the potential.
However, there was now a high demand to be a part of the programme. “Athletes are approaching SATD and requesting to be on the programme,” he said. “People see athletes running on the road and want to be a part of it”.
And said Wolff: “The emphasis is on participation, not elitism”.
Of the approximately 20 athletes on the programme, 16 are taking part in Ironman SA this year.
One of the development athletes who has the potential to excel this year is 22 year-old salesman and SATD development officer Justin Butler. “Justin did the best at the Spec-Savers Ironman 70.3 South Africa 2013 [placing 17th in his age-group, and first out of the SATD athletes] and is going to be a top contender this year at the Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa,” Timms said. This year will be the second time Butler races in the Ironman SA.
“I hope for better weather [this year]”, Butler said, referring to last year’s harsh conditions. Another SATD contender to take note of is Yusuf Arendse, 27, a lifeguard, who had a great race last year, according to Timms. “I’m expecting him to do very well again this year”.
Unathi Majara, 26, a physical education teacher and fitness instructor, unfortunately did not complete last year’s Ironman SA. “I’m going to have a chance to finish this year,” Majara said.
SATD ensures the athletes have the correct triathlon equipment, training programme, coaching, nutrition and living environment to help their successful participation in the race.
Timms is responsible for the training programme for these athletes.
Each weekend, the athletes are given a route to ride. “The athletes must learn to spend some time training on their own too,” Timms said.
Each SATD athlete wears a sponsored race kit and is loaned a bike and a wetsuit. In addition, each athlete receives a helmet, cycling shoes and running shoes.
“One of the biggest barriers to entering the Spec-Savers Ironman South Africa is the cost,” Timms said.
In addition to providing the athletes with the correct equipment and training, the SATD programme also aims to assist the athletes with travel and accommodation costs, making it possible for them to take part in the sport.