Champion says Ironman SA course toughest yet

STANDARD Bank Ironman African Championships South Africa winner Frederick van Lierde said it was his hardest Ironman.

However, he is looking forward to coming back next year to defend his title.

The Belgian professional triathlete made a memorable debut this year, winning the endurance event by more than 14 minutes at Pollok Beach in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.

Van Lierde, 35, crossed the finish line in a time of eight hours, 16 minutes and 34 seconds to collect the first prize cheque of $30 000 (R360 640).

“The course in this one was really hard – you can see the damage,” Van Lierde said. “I never expected 15 minutes.

“It hurts a lot. But at the end when you are racing in front with the helicopter above your head and the cameras on you, it helps.”

He also expressed his satisfaction with how he was able to execute his plan, saying: “It was one of those days where everything went well.”

The three-time France Ironman winner applauded the crowd and the event organisers.

“In terms of the event and the crowd, it’s European style.

“A lot of crowd, a lot people cheering on – plenty of people who really love the sport and appreciate every single athlete. “That is really important.” Jodie Swallows, who finished first for the women in a time of 9:33:02, said being cheered on by her friend and triathlete Camilla Pedersen placed more weight on her shoulder.

Pedersen finished in fourth place. “I think I was given the advantage of Camilla just cheering me on, after about 2km.

“She kind of gave it away that she was not going for a win. “She and I are great friends. “She is someone I admire so much and she cheered me on that early in the run. I felt a lot of responsibility.

Swallow is a five-times SA 70.3 champion and was placed fourth at the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, last year.

Lucy Gossage, who held on to her second place slot from last year, said if she had not achieved good results in this year’s event she would have given up on being a professional triathlete and focused on being a doctor.

“I think physically I was stronger last year, but mentally, this is my best race.

“In my head it was like, if I can’t run then this is it for me as a pro – I am going back to being a doctor,” Gossage said.

She said that she did not expect to finish in second place because she had tough completion from Susie Cheetham who finished just two minutes behind her.

-Vuyokazi Nkanjeni