South Africa’s Wian Sullwald‘s solid all-round performance in dismal conditions helped him win the 2012 ITU Triathlon Junior World Championship, and add another highlight in a history making day in Auckland.
Sullwald was part of a eight-man lead group for most of the bike leg before he ran clear of France’s Simon Viain and Ireland’s Constantine Doherty on the second of two 2.5km laps to become the first ITU World Champion from Africa at the junior, U23 and elite level. Doherty also became the first ITU World Championship medallist from Ireland.
All this happened just hours after Fumika Matsumoto became the first ITU World Champion from Japan. Just like Matsumoto, Sullwald said his story was also one of redemption after years of bad luck.
“It’s a dream come true for me since I started racing world triathlon,” Sullwald said. “Every year a junior I’ve been having bad luck at worlds and you know I said since the beginning of the year my focus was this race. Every training session I’ve been thinking about this race and it paid off today.”
“My first year I wasn’t strong enough, I wasn’t experienced enough, so I just didn’t have a good race, my second year in Budapest I had a bad crash coming into the last lap of the race, in Beijing I passed out. And you know everything happens for a reason and I’m actually glad it all happened it makes it the more special for me today.”
The rain was already pouring when the men entered the water for their 750m swim, and Sullwald was one of the first out just behind France’s Dorian Connix, Great Britain’s Gorden Benson, Japan’s Ryosuke Maeda and Norway’s Jorgen Gunderson.
But it was the rain-slicked bike leg that made the difference in this race and an initial group of over 20 was whittled down to 12 at the end of the first lap. Then the group was narrowed to eight at the halfway mark, as both the conditions and the tough course claimed victims.
But with Doherty riding fearlessly off the front, Benson, Sullwald, Viain, Kristian Blummenfelt, Marcel Walkington, Ryosuke Maeda and Shiruba Taniguchi sat in just behind and worked to increase the lead back to the chase.
Doherty entered and exited T2 first but was pulled in by Sullwald on the first lap. From there the South African cruised to the win by 14 seconds, in the biggest margin across all six ITU World Championship races in Auckland this weekend.
While that result looked secure for the majority of the run, it came down to the final few steps to decide the rest of the medals as Viain just found the extra burst to claim silver. Doherty, who still has two years left in the junior category, could hardly believe he had made the podium at all.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, I have to keep reminding myself where I was,” he said. “I knew coming into this race I need to bury myself on the cycle and just hang on in the run if I was to get anything out of it, even top ten. So that’s what I did, I just held on for dear life. I didn’t even even think until the end…I still don’t think I realised that I’ve come third.”
Sullwald posted the fastest run split of the day at 15:46, but the second fastest split went to the Netherlands Jorik van Egdom who managed to make up for a poor swim with two strong showings on the bike and run to finish eighth overall.
Fumika Matsumoto dominated torrid conditions to become the first ITU World Champion from Japan, beating France's Leonie Periault and the USA’s Tamara Gordon to win the 2012 ITU Junior Women's world title in Auckland
Aaron Royle's plan played out to perfection as the Australian waited until the last moment to win the 2012 ITU Under23 World Championship, ahead of Spain's Fernando Alarza and Great Britain's Thomas Bishop.
Germany's Anne Haug put the finishing touches on a breakthrough season with a victory in Auckland today, claiming the Grand Final. Lisa Norden was crowned the 2012 ITU World Champion
Great Britain's Non Stanford put in her most impressive performance when it counted, to claim the 2012 ITU Under23 World Championship ahead of the Netherlands Sarissa De Vries and Canada's Joanna Brown.