Home boy’s Ironman dream comes true

Greatest moment of career for Buckingham

Standard Bank Ironman African Championship winner Kyle Buckingham gets a congratulatory shower from runner-up Josh Amberger, of Australia
Standard Bank Ironman African Championship winner Kyle Buckingham gets a congratulatory shower from runner-up Josh Amberger, of Australia
Image: Werner Hills

Home boy Kyle Buckingham enjoyed the greatest moment of his career when he stormed to a popular victory in the Ironman African Championship at Hobie Beach yesterday.

Years of blood, sweat and tears finally bore fruit as the former Victoria Park High schoolboy outmanoeuvred a quality international field, with his time of eight hours and 13 minutes good enough to beat second-placed Josh Amberger, of Australia, by a full three minutes.

Maurice Clavel, of Germany, finished third.

Buckingham, 34, was overcome with emotion as he ran down the red carpet to claim his maiden Ironman African Championship yesterday.

“I still can’t believe it. It doesn’t feel real. I think I’ll have to watch some videos before it actually sinks in properly,” an exhausted Buckingham said.

“It took me a long time to take over second and then first. But I had to keep believing in myself and just think about all the good days I had put together over the last 20 weeks.”

Buckingham said it was his “phenomenal swim” which had set the tone for him going into the bike leg.

“I came out [of the swim] pretty much with the front pack.

“On the bike, I felt quite good. I did a lot of work on the bike.

“The last 40km I had to work really smart, but I tried not to go to the front too much because I knew I still had a marathon to do.”

After the bike leg, he had known it would be a good day as soon as he started the 42.2km marathon, he said.

He overtook Australian Cameron Wurf just before the 29km mark of the run and never looked back.

“I had been working a lot on my running and especially after the setback with a hip injury in January.

“But I really found an extra drive to keep going and keep doing what I love every day, and to keep fighting and keep improving,” he said.

He is the first South African, since Raynard Tissink in 2011, to win.
He was fourth last year and before that, his best finish was second in 2014. “To win on home soil is amazing. “I only started triathlon 10 years ago. It happened in such a short space of time. I was chasing this dream.”

Buckingham said winning the race had been a dream since watching his coach Tissink win in 2007 and then coming to watch the race the following year.

“It was after watching that race in 2008 that I told myself I want to win this race.”

Buckingham now adds the local title to his growing list of Ironman achievements, which include Ironman Lake Placid 2014 in his first year as a professional and Ironman Vineman in 2016.

He still holds the course record in Ironman Hawaii from 2013 as an age-grouper.

Thousands of spectators lined the course from early yesterday morning to cheer on almost 2 000 athletes and they went into overdrive as Buckingham ran down Marine Drive onto the red carpet.

“It definitely spurred me on. I had to stop on the red carpet to give my mom a hug, and grab the South African flag.

“It was a phenomenal feeling. I can still hear all the voices in my head.

“Thank you to all the South Africans along the course who were there cheering me on,” he said.

“You gave me that extra drive when I was running because I really had to dig deep. And thanks to the sponsors for sticking by me. It’s a huge commitment.

“Finally, thanks to my friends, family and my wife, who is always by my side.”

Radhee Nel, from Parkridge, said he had been coming to the event for the last few years to show support.

“It is an amazing thing for us to have a local winner after so many years. It really is motivating, especially for the younger generation,” Nel said.

Megan Houston, 16, from Walmer, said after seeing Buckingham’s win she was motivated to possibly take up triathlon.