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SA’s Murray the TSL wonder Down Under

Athletics
SYDNEY - South Africa’s Richard Murray finished first in the inaugural Triathlon Super League event and took the A$100 000 (about R986 000) first prize after three days of racing in a revolutionary format for the sport.

The 28-year-old beat strong competition in a starting field that included compatriot and Rio Olympic bronze medallist Henri Schoeman, Russian duo Igor and Dmitry Polyanskiy, Spain’s 2016 ITU world champion Mario Mola, 2015 under-23 world champion Jake Birtwhistle and Britain’s double Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee.

“I knew where my body was at, but after only a few events and about four speed running sessions this year I was not very sure,” Murray said on Tuesday, having recovered from the test on Hamilton Island.

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Richard Murray also won the Cape Town ITU Triathlon World Cup in February. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

The event, the first of a series, was a three-day mixed format starting with the “triple mix”, followed by the equaliser on the second day, and ending with the eliminator.

Competitors raced short distances, repeatedly, but sometimes in a variation from the usual triathlon order of swim, bike, run.

Designed to be fan and TV-friendly, athletes were even interviewed, somewhat breathlessly, during the transition between disciplines.

“On the first day, I noticed that this type of format suits me. I raced road cycling and was an 800/1500m runner,” Murray said.

Ankle and Achilles pain across the three days of intense sprint racing did not help Murray’s cause but the South African adopted a patient approach which kept him within the front pack without pushing the pace of the contest.

“The quality was there: world champions, Olympic champions, you name it.” Murray said.

“High-octane, flat-out, and no-fear racing - that’s what I love.”

Murray, whose consistency was shown by his amassing 56 out of 60 points, won the first two stages and finished third in the final eliminator to lift the trophy named after the event’s Russian billionaire backer Leonid Boguslavsky.

Mola finished second with 49 points, taking A$50000, and Australian Birtwhistle was third on 48 points for A$30000 - money way beyond that available on the regular circuit.

“Wow. Just wow. The most enjoyable, refreshing, and energising in triathlon,” Murray said.

“Chris McCormack, sir, you rock,” he added in reference to the co-organiser and former Ironman and ITU world champion.

Australian McCormack said: “We want triathlon to be exciting, innovative, and entertaining - this is critical for any sport’s survival in this era.” 

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