The 22-year-old Richard Murray (RSA) claimed his maiden African championship title in the elite category, edging out his compatriot and 2008 African champion Hendrik De Villiers (RSA) by 13 seconds in Maputo, Mozambique, on Sunday.
Murray, the double ITU Duathlon Junior World Champion in 2008 and 2007, overcame a 2- minute and 40-second gap that 19-year-old Abrahm Louw (NAM) had created by the end of the bike portion.
The elite and U23 categories raced together, though they had separate titles and medals. Louw, who broke away to go solo on bike and built the daunting lead over the combined fields, comfortably won the U23 title but also finished third in the combined pack. Claude Eksteen (RSA) took the last spot on the podium in the elite contest.
The women’s race also combined both Elite and U23 categories, won by unrivaled Kate Roberts (RSA). U23 winner Fabienne Aline St Louis (MRI) crossed the finish line ahead of Gillian Sanders (RSA), the runner-up in the two-athlete elite field.
A record seven countries - South Africa, Mauritius, Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Morocco and Egypt - participated in the 2011 Maputo ATU Triathlon African Championships. Three nations climbed the podium, and the dominant South Africans had to share the podium with Namibia and Mauritius.
Windy weather forced the swim leg to be shortened to 1,200m, and 13 athletes lined up in the men’s event. Experienced South Africans Eksteen and De Villiers struggled in the water, allowing Louw, Mehdi Essadiq (MOR), Jeff Norton (RSA) and Valery de Falbaire (MRI) to finish the swim in front.
Louw, racing the classic 51.5km distance in the U23 category for the first time, broke away with his super-quick transition and escaped on the hilly, technical bike route alone. In the 5km, eight-lap course, the highest peak was 49m high at the halfway mark. Louw kept powering down the hill every lap to gain the advantage, which sent spectators into a cheering frenzy.
However, Murray - who recently conquered a tough field at the 2011 Brasschaat ITU Triathlon Premium European Cup - was too strong, and the 2:40 advantage was not enough for Louw. Murray, joined by De Villiers, passed the young hopeful just before the final lap on the run.
With the win, Murray has proven himself a possible dark horse should he enter the 10th All African Games, hosted by this coastal capital on the Indian Ocean from 3-18 September.
Meanwhile, two athletes raced the Paratriathlon. Chris Wagner (RSA) won the TRI-2 title, while Oswald Kydd (RSA) took the TRI-3 crown.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Africa Triathlon Union for putting an excellent event together in Maputo,” Kydd said. “The cohesion between all the authorities involved was top class, the effort to make the event safe was faultless and the support from the local residents was great. I would say that this (is) one of the better events I have attended and would gladly return if they were to have the Championships in Maputo again.”
At the end of the day, ATU President Liesbeth Stoltz remarked, “The ATU wanted to showcase the sport of Triathlon in the country that will host the 2011 All African Games. We have achieved more than that: We have created new fans of triathlon and we will be back with more!”
2011 Maputo ATU Triathlon African Championships - 3 July 2011
Elite & U23 Swim 1.2km, Bike 40km, Run 10km
Junior & Paratriathlon Swim 750m, Bike 20km, Run 5km