THE Old Mutual Mariental Chamber of Commerce Triathlon will reach a special milestone on Saturday when the 25th consecutive edition will be held.
The Triathlon was held for the first time in November 1988 and since then it has taken place each year under the able administrative leadership of Dr Alfie Grobler.
It grew into one of the top triathlons in southern Africa, drawing some of Africa’s top triathletes like Conrad Stolz, Hendrik de Villiers, Caroline Koll and Claire Kingsley. At its height from 2004 to 2007 it formed part of the African Triathlon Union and International Triathlon Union circuit. Sadly the triathlon no longer forms part of the ATU and the ITU after the Namibia Triathlon Federation became inactive over the last few years, while South Africa’s top triathletes also don’t compete anymore due to the exorbitant costs, but Grobler has managed to keep the event going.
“It is thanks to the Mariental Chamber of Commerce and other sponsors through the years like the ITU, FNB and now Old Mutual who have sponsored the event for the past four years, that we managed to keep it going. It shows that the sponsors have had faith in us,” he said.
According to Dr Grobler, the highlights of the event occurred from 2004 to 2007 when it formed part of the ITU circuit and attracted top triathletes.
“Those were definitely the golden years, when our triathlon formed part of the ATU and ITU calendar and when triathletes could get international points that counted towards the Triathlon World Cup and ultimately the Olympic Games. It was the only one of its kind in the whole of Namibia and not even Windhoek or Swakopmund could match us,” he said. “It has recently become too expensive to fly South African athletes in, so we have decided to use the extra money to sponsor a part of our local athletes’ accommodation on the Friday night before the race,” Grobler said.
Despite the lack of international participation, the Old Mutual Mariental Chamber of Commerce Triathlon has shown significant growth over the past five years and Grobler said they were expecting a record entry on Saturday.
“Over the past five years we have shown an annual increase of about 10 to 15 percent in competitors and we once again expect an increase of about 10 percent on last year. We expect about 110 senior and 50 children to take part this year,” he said.
The triathlon, which will start at the Hardap Dam outside Mariental at 07h00 on Saturday will cater for a standard and beginners' triathlon, a standard and beginners' duathlon and a 40km social bike ride.
The standard triathlon consists of a 1,5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run, while the beginners' triathlon consists of a 500m swim, 20km cycle and 5km run. The standard duathlon consists of a 5km run, 40km cycle and another 5km run, while the beginners' duathlon consists of a 2,5km run, 20km cycle and another 2,5km run.
Each finisher will receive a special 25th anniversary commemorative copper medal, while the podium finishers will receive gold, silver and bronze commemorative medals.
Entries will be taken at the Dutch Reformed Church Hall in Mariental tomorrow from 16h00 to 19h00. Triathletes can enter in various age group categories from five- to seven-year-olds through to the veteran and masters categories.