Some will claim that he rolled with the punches. Others will say he took a curve ball. And yet others will say he simply acted like a true Zimbabwean and “made a plan.” But all will agree to one fact – Zimbabwean junior male triathlete, Drew Williams, raced like a champion in Chicago yesterday (17 September 2015). As he prepared his transition area and completed his final warm ups, just minutes before the Junior Men’s Race at the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final began, there was a sudden announcement.
Storm clouds were brewing, air saturated with 82% humidity, a thunderstorm approaching. The ITF officials called for an immediate evacuation of the course, corralling competitors into a nearby hotel, while they decided the fate of the race. With cyclists on edge, the officials then announced not only an hour’s delay, but also a major change in the planned triathlon – the swim segment would be cancelled and instead they would run a 5k run/20k bike/2.5k run duathlon.
The last time Williams had competed in a duathlon was 2008. He had just spent over a month of intensive swim practice, and felt the swim would be perhaps the strong point in his début triathlon on the world championship stage. Now he had to roll with the punches, take the curve ball, make a plan. And that’s exactly what he did.
Williams, a student at St John’s College, gave it his all and came out of the opening 5km run with a personal best of 16,13 in 57th place out of the field of 79 world-class competitors. After a smooth transition, he then moved up to 52nd place after the 20km bike ride, on which he clocked another personal best sub 30 minute time. Williams ignored the nagging cramp settling into his leg, and increased the pace to finish the race in 56 minutes and 29 seconds as the 50th fastest junior male triathlete in the world. He was the first African competitor to cross the line, beating Egyptian and South African triathletes who had previously beat him on the continent.
Toby Coote of Sunshine Coast Tri Academy in Australia, who has been coaching Williams remotely, agreed that Williams had performed extremely well on the world stage: “Finishing first on the African nations and beating athletes that normally beat you, the hard work and consistency is paying off. Watch out next year – we will have a different athlete with a lot more experience and preparation…. bigger things are coming his way.”
Teammate and Chisipite Senior School student Rebecca Duncan started slow, but then climbed to finish in 54th place in the Women’s Junior Championship race today (18 September 2015). Duncan was 60th out of the 66 competitors coming out of the swim which she finished in 10.38 She moved down to 64th place after the second lap of the bike ride, but then improved to 61st as she transitioned to the final leg of the triathlon. Duncan gained momentum in her run to finish 54th in a time of 1.08.55 out of 58 athletes who completed the race.