South African para-triathletes secured podium spots in the recent 2018 Africa Championships in Rabat, Morocco, writes MARK ETHERIDGE.
Competing in the blind and visually impaired category (PTVI), David Jones and his guide Tyron Ingle came out tops in a time of 1hr 11min 03sec. Paralympian Gavin Kilpatrick and guide Michael Harris were second in this category with a time of 1:24:41.
'It was my first international triathlon participation so the nerves were bouncing off the walls and there was huge excitement,' Kilpatrick told Team SA on his return from Morocco.
'We had a day or two to scout the run and bike course, as well as sample the many sights, sounds and flavours hidden in the madina (a fully self-sufficient walled-in city on the banks of the river where we were going to race) before the Elite events took place on the Saturday.
'We watched that race in anticipation of what we were in for the following day. Unfortunately, the strong tidal current made for tricky swimming conditions and some of the women were forced to abandon their race.
'There were also a few crashes on the bike course due to the light rain. This was a concern for our event as we were competing at a similar time.
'Sunday morning and race day arrived. After some breakfast, we suited up and made our way down to the venue, in what looked like perfect race conditions. There were a total of nine para-triathletes from four African countries with a variety of disabilities at the event.
'The organisers decided to set us all off at the same time, closely followed by water marshals to assist where necessary if the strong tides caused any issues.'
The tides certainly were a factor during the 750 metre swim. 'The swim was an out-and-back course and it took us two and a half minutes to reach the furthest point and another eleven and a half minutes to get back. There were times I thought we were actually not moving.'
Onto the 20km bike route which featured a mostly flat course. 'There was a small stinger with a headwind at the half way point of each lap,' says Kilpatrick. 'The tandems were notably faster than the single bikes that we were passing.
'Onto the final 5km run and although I experienced some discomfort from the previous evening's dinner, we managed to complete the course and finished third overall and second to David [Jones] in the PTVI category.
'Our aim was to secure second spot and some much-needed points required for the ITU ranking system to be used in qualification for World Champs later this year. Now we hope to secure some financial sponsorship in order to compete at these events as part of the bigger plan to qualify at the 2019 World Champs for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.'