JOHANNESBURG - Triathlon continued to punch above its weight and was one of South Africa’s stand out so-called Cinderella sporting codes in 2018.
Olympic bronze medallist Henri Schoeman and Richard Murray regularly stepped onto the podium at major swim-cycle-run events around the globe.
Schoeman ignited South Africa’s medal haul at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April where he outclassed a top field which included two-time Olympic champion Alistair Brownlee.
He went into the Games buoyed by his second World Triathlon Series (WTS) title from Abu Dhabi where he won both the swim and the cycle legs to claim an impressive victory.
Schoeman became only the second male triathlete after Brownlee to win both the swimming and cycling events to go on to win a WTS title.
Murray, who was looking to upgrade his bronze medal from 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, had to be content with fourth place in Australia.
He made up for it by producing a few stellar performances during the rest of the season including his maiden WTS victory.
Murray started the season winning the ITU World Cup in Cape Town title for the second year in a row before winning his first WTS gold medal over the Olympic distance in Leeds in June which he followed up with a third place at WTS Hamburg.
The Cape Town-based triathlete rounded off the season with the bronze medal at the final race of the World Triathlon Series (WTS) at Gold Coast in Australia.
To add to triathlon’s stellar season Amber Schlebusch came from behind to win the women’s gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires.
South African amateur wrestling also experienced a superb 2018 with the country’s grapplers winning two medals at the Commonwealth Games.
Martin Erasmus became the first South African since the 1958 Empire Games to win a wrestling gold medal at the quadrennial showpiece with Hanru Botha winning bronze in the 74kg category.
Weightlifter Mona Pretorius produced one of the fairy tales of the year, winning the bronze medal in the women’s Under-63kg category, 12 years after she made her Commonwealth debut in Melbourne 2006.
One cannot talk about South Africa’s success at the Commonwealth Games without mentioning the country’s lawn bowlers.
They added five medals - three silver and two bronzes - to the team’s tally at the Games with Nicolene Neal and Colleen Piketh coming within a point of winning the women’s pairs gold medal.
South African netball did not quite reach the highs of 2017 where the Proteas team seemed to be closing the gap on the top four sides in the world.
Debilitating losses to key personnel did not help the team’s cause at the Commonwealth Games but it was perhaps a blessing in disguise as it forced national coach Norma Plummer to blood a few youngsters with an eye on the 2019 World Cup in Liverpool.
The team beat Uganda in their final match of the tournament to finish in fifth place, one spot better than four years earlier.
The Proteas produced sub-par performances in the Quad Series involving Australia, New Zealand and England.
They suffered two heavy defeats against Australia and New Zealand before bouncing back with a strong showing against England in their final match of the series where they lost by a mere three points.
Finishing the year off on a high, the Proteas claimed the Diamond Challenge title with dominant displays against Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the President’s XII team.
South African cycling also produced a few breakthroughs spearheaded by rising mountain biking star Alan Hatherly and road cycling supremo Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio.
Hatherly won the Commonwealth Games bronze medal just months after breaking his left wrist and fracturing the right one months before the multi-sport event.
He became only the second South African to claim the Under-23 world cross-country title in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, later in the year following in the footsteps of the late Burry Stander.
Clint Hendricks managed to squeeze through a small gap shortly before the line in a sprint to the finish for the bronze medal in the road race.
Moolman-Pasio made history by finishing second at the Giro Rosa in Italy which is the only Grand Tour in women’s cycling.@ockertde
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