JOHANNESBURG - Looking for his second podium finish of the season, Rio Olympic bronze medallist Henri Schoeman will spearhead South Africa’s charge at the Yokohama World Triathlon Series (WTS) over the weekend.
With Richard Murray taking time out to focus on Half Ironman preparations, Schoeman and Wian Sullwald will fly the flag in the men’s elite race with Gillian Sanders featuring in the women’s category.
Schoeman is currently fifth on the World Triathlon Series rankings with a second-placed finish at the Cape Town ITU World Triathlon World Cup and two top-10 finishes on the WTS.
The Yokohama race has attracted a top-class field which includes WTS rankings leader Javier Gomez Noya of Spain with Olympic silver medalist Jonny Brownlee making his season’s debut.
Schoeman has regained his strength and confidence following a heart scare at the WTA Abu Dhabi with a creditable fifth and eight-place finishes at the New Plymouth World Cup and WTS Gold Coast events respectively.
Finishing the 2016 with a flourish by winning the Olympic bronze medal and topping the Cozumel Grand Final podium, Schoeman has not quite enjoyed the same form this year.
It will also be the first time Schoeman lines up against Brownlee, who he beat in dramatic fashion in Cozumel, Mexico last year.
Schoeman moved past Brownlee, who had suffered in the heat and had to be carried over the line by his brother Alistair, to claim his maiden WTS title.
Reigning ITU World Champion Mario Mola of Spain will add to the quality line-up in Japan’s second biggest city for the 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run event.
Earning his first major senior podium finish with a third-place finish in Cape Town, Sullwald’s season has been slightly topsy turvy.
Sullwald did not finish in Abu Dhabi after crashing on the bike leg before finishing in 22nd place in New Plymouth and cracking the top-10 with a ninth place in the Gold Coast.
He will go into Yokohama with his best world ranking just out of the top-10 (11th).
Ranked second in the world, Murray is the top South African so far this season but will be missing Yokohama as he prepares for his maiden Half Ironman in Slovakia in June.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s only female on the elite circuit, Sanders would have taken confidence from her ninth-place finish at the Gold Coast.