Mur­ray set for a se­ries ‘podium’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - OCKERT DE VILLIERS

TRIATHLON hard man Richard Mur­ray is on the verge of be­com­ing the first South African to claim an over­all podium place on the World Triathlon Se­ries when he lines up in the Grand Fi­nal in Rot­ter­dam to­day.

Mur­ray brushed aside the dis­ap­point­ment of miss­ing out on a medal at the Rio Olympic Games where he fin­ished fourth to come out swing­ing in 2017.

At the be­gin­ning of the year Mur­ray said he planned on hav­ing a bit of fun in 2017. He opened his cam­paign win­ning the Cape Town World Cup while he won medals in three of the five WTS races he com­peted in this year.

Cur­rently ly­ing in third place on the rank­ings, Mur­ray needs to fin­ish in the top four and ahead of Fer­nando Alarza of Spain for a guar­an­teed spot on the over­all podium.

Spa­niards Mario Mola and Javier Gomez are ranked first and sec­ond re­spec­tively on the over­all rank­ings and are firm favourites to claim the se­ries ti­tle.

“The WTS wasn’t my fo­cus for the sea­son so if I fin­ish in the top three over­all it will be great but like al­ways I am just go­ing to give my best and the re­sult will take care of it­self,” Mur­ray said.

“It is pretty cold here and we are go­ing to have wet con­di­tions on Satur­day. It will make for in­ter­est­ing rac­ing. The bike course has some cor­ners and with the rain it is go­ing to be tricky, I think.”

Olympic bronze medal­list Henri Schoe­man, who won last year’s Grand Fi­nal in Cozumel, will be look­ing to move up one spot for an over­all top-10 fin­ish.

Last year Schoe­man and Mur­ray fin­ished the sea­son in fourth and fifth place on the over­all rank­ings.

Wian Sull­wald will be the third South African man to line up in the Grand Fi­nal to bring an end to a break­through year.

The for­mer world ju­nior cham­pion landed a podium spot next to Schoe­man and Mur­ray at the Cape Town World Cup in Fe­bru­ary and will be look­ing to fin­ish as close to the over­all top-10.

Switch­ing al­le­giances from New Zealand, South African- born triath­lete Si­mone Ack­er­mann will make her de­but for her birth coun­try at the Grand Fi­nal.

Af­ter com­pet­ing as a neu­tral ath­lete for a 12-month pe­riod, Ack­er­mann had qual­i­fied to rep­re­sent South Africa.

Ack­er­man, who was part of Triathlon New Zealand’s high per­for­mance squad, changed al­le­giances af­ter she left out of her adopted coun­try’s Rio Olympic squad.

The East London-born ath­lete is the sec­ond top ranked South African on the World Triathlon Se­ries points ta­ble be­hind stal­wart Gillian San­ders. Dou­ble Olympian Mari Ra­bie’s re­tire­ment af­ter last year’s Olympic Games has left a void in women’s triathlon with San­ders be­ing the only South African fly­ing the flag.

Richard Mur­ray

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