PE athlete eyes World Champs slot

Mpengesi out to cut time to under 10 hours in bid for golden pass to Hawaii

Siyabulela Jabu Mpengesi fought his way to a third-place finish in the Standard Bank 5150 held in Nelson Mandela Bay
Siyabulela Jabu Mpengesi fought his way to a third-place finish in the Standard Bank 5150 held in Nelson Mandela Bay
Image: Brian Witbooi

Port Elizabeth amateur triathlete Siyabulela Jabu Mpengesi was the first black athlete to cross the finish line in his age group at last year’s Standard Bank Ironman African Championships and now in Sunday’s edition he will be chasing a slot at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship.

Mpengesi, who participates in the 35-39-year age bracket, finished in 10 hours and 23 minutes, claiming 52nd place in his age group and 249th overall.

However, this time around he hopes to finish in under 10 hours to secure himself a golden pass for the World Champs in September.

Sunday’s Ironman African Championships at Hobie Beach will be Mpengesi’s 11th race.

He has also competed in Ironman events in Austria and Wales.

The 35-year-old said he was more motivated this year and hungry to qualify for the World Champs.

“The preparations for the race have gone very well,” Mpengesi said.

“I stay in PE and my trainer, Raynard Tissink, is also this side. So most of the training sessions we did together.

“The preparations went very well, that is why I am motivated to do a really good time. My mind is clear and I am hungry for a top 10 position and to hopefully qualify for the World Champs.”

According to Mandela Bay Development Agency marketing and communications manager Luvuyo Bangazi, there are 50 slots open for South African athletes for the SA World Champs.
“Ironman has made a special arrangement for the World Champs, to allow South African athletes to race. The 50 slots include both male and female triathletes.

“The slots will be allocated by the percentage ratio in terms of entries in the age groups. But the allocation will be based on the number of starts per age group on the day,” he said.

“The MBDA started a Triathlon Advancement Programme to try to boost the chances of black triathletes to qualify on merit for the World Champs.

“Jabu is our second hope after Peter Gatanga’l qualified for a slot in the 70.3 Ironman race in East London. But if he doesn’t do well on Sunday his last chance will be in Durban.”

The athlete said since training with retired multi-Ironman title winner Tissink, he had improved as a triathlete.

Going into the Sunday’s race, Mpengesi said he had had to polish up on some areas of the race.

“I had to improve a lot on my swimming – and my running as well, because the run comes towards the end and by [then] you are tired.

“You need to be brave sometimes because you don’t perform. Sometimes you are scared you don’t know in what state you will be when you get to the run.

“I think anything below 10 hours will put me in a very competitive spot. I think, if I am not mistaken, 10 hours and four minutes was No 10 in the group last year.”

Mpengesi said when he was younger he had had aspirations of turning professional, but now he reckoned he was too old.

“When I started with triathlon I was 20 but now I am too old to turn pro. I am competing now for the age group and I am trying to be better and dominate the age group so that I can go to the World Championships, in Hawaii.”