HENRI SCHOEMAN clinched South Africa’s first medal of the Commonwealth Games on Thursday afternoon, as he surged in the run to take the triathlon gold.
The Durbanite had been in the lead group with England’s all-conquering Brownlee brothers coming off the 750m swim water and the 20km ride‚ but when he put foot early in the 5km run‚ nobody responded.
“I thought the guys were maybe just taking it easy on the first lap‚ maybe use the second lap to open up‚” said Schoeman‚ who won silver in the team relay at Glasgow 2014.
“I just wanted to make sure I get my gap in the first lap and it increased and increased‚ got bigger and bigger.”
The Schoeman family now has a full set of Commonwealth Games medals‚ including the bronze older brother Riaan landed in the 400m individual medley at Delhi 2010.
Riaan‚ who now lives in nearby Brisbane‚ was in the stands with their parents to watch Henri become the Commonwealth Games champion as he crossed the line in 52min 31sec.
Australian Jacob Birtwhistle was second and Marc Austin of Scotland third.
Schoeman’s compatriot Richard Murray‚ third at the last two Commonwealth Games‚ was sixth and a disappointed Wian Sullwald 20th.
Schoeman will have a chance to bag more silverware in the team relay on Saturday when he teams up with Murray‚ Gill Sanders and Simone Ackermann.
Meanwhile‚ not far away at the swimming pool‚ Chad Le Clos’s chances of winning gold in the 50m butterfly increased substantially when the favourite‚ England’s defending champion Ben Proud‚ was disqualified for a false start.
Proud had obliterated the field‚ including Le Clos‚ who touched second in 23.53sec‚ but that was enough to seed him No1 for the evening semifinals where his countrymen Ryan Coetzee and Brand Tandy will also compete.
SA swimmers will have only one shot in the evening finals‚ but that is an outside chance in the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay.
Fortune didn’t smile on SA’s triathlon women earlier. Ackermann was lying fifth early in the cycle‚ but then crashed when her front wheel clipped a part of the curb.
“Just was taking too many chances around the corner and clipped my wheel on one of the turn-around points‚ like an island. I got too close‚” said Ackermann‚ who ended 18th.
“I’m just stiff and annoyed.”
Sanders‚ who fractured a rib in Abu Dhabi last month‚ realised her race for a medal was over when she finished the cycle in 17th position.
“When I got onto the run I was kind of in no man’s land‚ it was either smash myself and try and come 12th‚ or just back-off for the relay and finish 15th. I had to make a call.”
A relay medal will be tough — England‚ New Zealand and Australia had two finishers in the top 11 of both the men and the women.