Zimbabwe’s Jr Triathlon team shone at the ATU African Triathlon Championships and Pan-Arab Championships in Egypt this weekend, all six members finishing in the top eight of their respective races. The team of three boys and three girls qualified in March with their times at the ITU triathlon held at Troutbeck.
Youth Olympian Drew Williams, of St John’s College, finished an impressive 1:03.49 to come fourth in a field of 25 athletes from 10 countries in the men’s junior race. The winner, from South Africa, finished in 1.02.16. Second place also went to a South African triathlete, with third being taken by a Mauritian. Gideon Benade of Peterhouse finished sixth in 1:05.06 and Hellenic Academy’s Alexander Colegrave seventh in 1:05.33.
Williams is waiting to see if his time and fourth place finish will be sufficient to qualify him for the World Triathlon Championships in Chicago, Illinois in September. Asked about his race in Egypt on Saturday, he told SSN: “The race was flat, fast and furious. It was an aggressive swim with a lot of jostling for place. The ride was hard work, trying to catch the six leaders. And then the run was tough and very hot with our chase pack all fighting for a slot to Chicago.”
Rebecca Duncan of Chisipite came fourth in a time of 1:07.51 in a field of 16 competitors from six countries. Chisipite classmate Karishma Patel was right behind her, finishing fifth in 1:09.25. Gabrielle de Chassart from Hellenic finished eighth in 1:15.37. The junior women’s race was won by a South African triathlete in 1:03.58 with a South African in second and an Egyptian in third.
Saturday’s spring course started with a 750m swim in the sea followed by a 19km bike ride on asphalt and finishing with a 5km road run through the coastal resort town of Sharm el Sheik.
SSN caught up with Coach Pamela Fulton in Egypt who was ecstatic with the team’s performance: “Our six athletes have done us proud. They have trained exceptionally hard leading up to this important event, and I am very happy with their performance although we did not medal. The caliber of competition was exceptionally high.”
The strength of Zimbabwe’s junior triathlon team reveals the true potential for development of the sport here in a country where both cross-country running and swimming are strong sports starting from the primary through to the secondary school level.