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October 11, 2011

Where are the South Africans?

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South Africa has a long history of being brilliant at all things sports orientated. We have the largest mass participation swim (open water – Midmar), bike (Le Argus) and run’s (Ultra Marathon – Comrades) in the world here. We have the terrain, the genetics and the facilities.

In triathlon, we have world beaters like Conrad Stoltz, Raynard Tissink, Dan Hugo and James Cunnama. We have one or two up and coming guys like Richard Murray as well, but where is the real depth. I read this article yesterday and when I look at the depth of Australian triathlon, I must wonder where we are missing the boat here in South Africa, where the talent exists, surely?

Then I came across the fastest amateur splits in Kona, and my jaw dropped, properly. Sure, the conditions were great, but for an AG without a pack to help him, how is the 39 year guy who went 6 minutes slower than race winner Crowie?

1st 4:30:13 1226 Damien Favre-Felix FRA

2nd 4:35:17 1025 Andrea Zamboni SWI

3rd 4:35:26 1197 Markus Ganser GER

4th 4:38:13 1754 Kai Lueddecke GER

5th 4:38:27 1337 Sam Gyde BEL

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That blows my mind.

But then I look at the guys run splits. Check this out:

1 2:43:29 1797 Thorne, Joe 27 Austin TX USA

2 2:56:48 1337 Gyde, Sam 36 Destelberg O-V BEL

3 2:57:28 1499 Sloan, Chuck 34 Tulsa OK USA

4 2:58:09 1901 Duffy, Brian 23 West Chest PA USA

5 2:58:21 1755 Haak, Steffen 29 Karlsruhe BW GER

Mad when the fastest age grouper outruns the guy who broke the overall record, but hey, I hope we see Joe Thorne as a pro in the future.

Top 3 guys in my age group – all under 9 hours. Same for 35-39. Crazy.

Where are these up and coming guys in South Africa? Our fastest guy was a 35-39 year old, Shaun Winkler, who had an amazing race for 9:26:24 – an amazing achievement. But where are our future stars, the 25-29 year olds going 9 hours, like so many other countries have?

Are they not supported enough to be able to make the life of a pro? I know we have an ITU program through Lotto Funding (which is showing results and would hopefully lead to future development of athletes beyond ITU), but where is the support for the guys who COULD be great. I know from chatting with the professionals that they fought long, tough years to pay for their first years as professional athletes and continue to struggle not only for financial support but also support from government, etc.

But athletes are also to blame. Bad mentalities towards what sponsorship entails continues to frustrate me and the sponsors who want to help the sport grow. Simple things like maintaining blog, twitter accounts and believe it or not, the most simple things like good grammar, not swearing or using vulgar language are often forgotten by athletes.

Surely someone should be watching them, coaching them, helping them forge a career, not just a few results so that when they get injured, they have a presence, an audience to fall back on?

I believe we have the talent here. Our gene pool is ridiculously deep. There are athletes with the right attitude, the right work ethic who just need a little bit of help, but may be too scared to ask for help.

I am going to end this post on the positive note that I believe we have the talent, that the infrastructure could be there for these guys and girls and that future world champions are among us today. I urge them to talk to other athletes about WHAT IT TAKES. Speak to James, to Ray, Conrad and Dan about the times they had to rough it to get to races, prizes, etc. Send them an email – they always respond. I urge their sponsors to nurture them with caring hands, help them to create the right content for their presences. Get your PR agency to work with them and build an audience for your brand with them.

On that note, a massive thank you to all the partners who make this Urban Ninja what it is. It’s a big journey. We have only just begun.

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