MBDA and city help promising candidates in World Champs qualifying bid
Six previously disadvantaged athletes had an opportunity to train with leading Port Elizabeth triathlete Kyle Buckingham yesterday as they bid to get in shape for next year’s Ironman World Championships taking place in Nelson Mandela Bay.
The Mandela Bay Development Agency, in consultation with the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality’s sports, arts and culture division, recently advertised six Ironman South Africa slots for top-performing, previously disadvantaged triathletes.
Labelled the NMB Triathlon Stars, the six are Vukile Makeleni, Siyabulela Mpengesi, Peter Gatanga’l, Faisal Ackerdien, Madoda Bambalaza and Thembile Nxele.
Yesterday’s session, which started at the Shark Rock Pier in Summerstrand at 6.30am, included a 1km swim, 52km of cycling and a 6km run.
According to MBDA marketing and communications manager Luvuyo Bangazi, the aim of the initiative is to assist previously disadvantaged athletes to qualify for the World Championships next year.
“Ironman is predominantly non-black and we are trying to get as many athletes of colour to participate,” Bangazi said.
“You have to qualify for the race in 2018, you cannot just pay and enter. So Kyle is helping them to get there eventually.
“We have entered the athletes for Ironman Africa here in PE. They had to first submit their race times from 2016.
“These are the best of the best previously disadvantaged guys who finished last year, both in Ironman Africa and the 5150.
“We took the best times and identified the six athletes. These are the guys who are being helped by Kyle, who is a professional but was once an amateur like them.
“Hopefully, he will inspire and motivate them to eventually get to where he is.”
Ironman Lake Placid winner Buckingham applauded the programme.
“It’s an amazing opportunity for these athletes, because I think there is hope.
“For me, to just be here today giving them inspiration and motivation for the big day on April 2 is an awesome step.
“The guys have good times and they are strong.
“There are a few who are really competitive.”
He said his main advice to the athletes was on race strategy and pacing themselves on the day. He also touched a little on the importance of training.
Mpengesi, 34, one of the lucky six, said he had been taking part in triathlons since 2005, while he was still in university, and had never looked back.
“It has been a great morning, having Kyle give us some tips in the water, how to stay with the pack and on the bike as well, and how to ride within your limits,” Mpengesi said.
“Kyle said just pace yourself and do not worry about what the other guys are doing.”
Mpengesi, who is preparing for the African Championships next month, said he was aiming to do better than his time of 11 hours 14 minutes this year.
He said with the World Champs coming to the city next year, it would help towards the development of triathlon in the metro.
Ackerdien, 42, said taking part in the World Championships next year would be a dream come true.
The programme would motivate more people to come into the sport, he said.
“For me, it is motivational, the support I am getting from the rest of the guys is very encouraging.
“My preparations for the upcoming Ironman have been touch and go at times with family life getting in the way of certain things. “But they have gone well. “The plan is to stick to the plan and trust [it].”