Ellina Mhlanga Sports Reporter
EVENT director of the Bonaqua Troutbeck ATU Sprint Triathlon African Cup, Rick Fulton, says they are pleased with the entries for this year’s edition as it will feature the largest field in the competition’s history.
Last year the event attracted 15 athletes but the figures doubled this year with 30 elite athletes – 21 men and nine women – now registered to compete at Troutbeck Resort in Nyanga on February 16.
The event consists of a 750m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run.
“I think the growth of the elite field is two-fold, one was the strategy that we adopted for the 2018 event by staging this event one week after the World Cup triathlon event that takes place in Cape Town,’’ he said.
‘’And we saw there were a lot of athletes, or the few athletes that went to Cape Town, who also came to Zimbabwe.
“Both are ranking points events…I think we are now reaping the benefits of that strategy by the increase in the elite field for this year.’’
Fulton said with the Olympics coming next year in Tokyo, it has also had an influence on the numbers.
“The second reason is we are now within the two-year Olympic qualification cycle for Tokyo 2020.
‘’So, although the top end athletes are, with regards to the International Triathlon Union, chasing big points at big events around the world, there is still an opportunity based on the qualification system for up-and-coming young athletes to move into the system and become part of their National Olympic Committee funding systems.
“Although we may not have athletes that might make qualification for 2020 in Tokyo, they will certainly be in the frame for Paris in 2024.
‘’So, there are opportunities here for young athletes to come to these events, pick up valuable points and improve their rankings and improve their funding and support systems within their own National Federations.’’
Zimbabwe will only have Gideon Benade racing in the elite men’s field.
Benade made his debut at the event last year and hopes are that it will be a better outing for him this year.
In addition to the elite event, an inaugural ATU Junior Triathlon African Cup will also be staged at the same venue with Zimbabwe, Egypt, Tunisia, Mauritius, Namibia and South Africa taking part.
Supporting events on the day include an African Cross-Triathlon (off-road) Championship, Corporate Team Triathlon Challenge and Zimbabwe Triathlon Championships over a number of events.
There is also the Tri-Kidz and Trisports triathlon, Aquathlon (run-swim-run) and an Open Water Swim.
Coca-Cola senior brand manager Vee Chibanda said their aim is to see the sport growing.
“This year is our fifth year supporting triathlon and we have come a long way and we want to ensure that it keeps growing.
‘’We know we have a lot of challenges, there are a lot of things that we sometimes find ourselves battling with but we are committed to supporting sport and we will continue to support it,” said Chibanda.
Source : The Herald