Reigning African triathlon champion Henri Schoeman had the race of his life to miss a podium finish by just three seconds in Austria at the weekend.
Durban’s Schoeman took fourth spot in what is known as one of the worlds’ toughest triathlon events, the ITU World Triathlon Kitzbuehel.
Made up of a 750-metre swim, 11.5-kilometre bike ride and a 2.5km slog up to the Kitzbuehel Horn.
Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee won in 55min 23sec from Spain’s Mario Mola in 56:00 with Switzerland’s Sven Riderer filling out the podium with 56:46. Just three second later it was Schoeman who crossed the line in 56:49.
What makes Schoeman’s achievement all the more remarkable was that he nearly didn’t make the startline. “My final preparation didn’t go as planned and I nearly pulled out due to a strain in one of my shins. But thanks to Dr Garrck Haswell’s treatment, with the taper, my leg was almost 100% on Saturday,” Schoeman told Road to Rio 2016 on Monday.
“There really aren’t enough words to describe what it felt like to end fourth. It was by far the most enjoyable triathlon I’ve ever done, also the hardest, and I loved every bit.”
Schoeman, younger brother of Olympic swimmer Riaan Schoeman, had a good swim himself. “It was perfect, I had a good start and made my way to third and just sat comfortably on the feet of Richard Varga. There was a group of nine that managed to break clear to the base of the mountain including Alistair, Javier Gomez and myself.
“The first 500m of the cycling leg was quick but we settled into a pace fairly quickly. I made sure I was near the front from the beginning, so I wouldn’t have to over exert myself catching up early on.
“I managed to maintain fourth place on the bike. I may have taken the first 4km a little too easy but pushed the last 2km harder and I caught up to Sven Riederer, only 15sec behind in T2. With about 600m to go Sven was still about 15sec in front. I left my final sprint too late and missed a podium by just three seconds!
“I believe I could’ve had a podium position if I hadn’t held back so much and known the course a bit better. Congratulations to Alistair, Mario and Sven. They were without a doubt the best athletes on the day.
“I was also not fortunate enough to have access to mountains to train on, and I had to use what I had at home in Durban, South Africa. With excellent guidance and coaching from Joe Schoeman, I was able to execute my race better than many of the best in the world on Saturday. As Kitzbuehel was only half the training plan, I also got into some good form over the last few weeks for the Hamburg World Sprint Champs on 20 July.
Also in the field was our 2012 Olympian Richard Murray but the Capetonian didn’t have his best day and ended 21st in 59:46.
Written by Mark Etheridge from Road to Rio