Murray set for a series ‘podium’
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.