JOHANNESBURG – Producing a tenacious run, Amber Schlebusch came from behind to win the women’s triathlon gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires on Sunday.
Schlebusch won South Africa’s first Youth Olympic title in the swim-cycle-run event at the third edition of the quadrennial showpiece.
The 17-year-old from Durban produced the fastest running leg, crossing the line in a time of 58 minutes 47 seconds. She had to claw her way into contention after a self-proclaimed under-par swim which saw her 27 seconds off the pace.
The gutsy Grade 11 pupil at Durban Girls’ College had to erase nearly a minute going into the run leg to claim the victory.
“I’m in this sort of disbelief right now; it feels amazing and I really can’t believe it,” Schlebusch told the IOC’s website. “Now I can say, I’m the Youth Olympic champion.
“It’s a pretty good title to have, so I’m really stoked. It was a bad swim, but then I caught up on the run. I’m really happy to end up feeling so strong.”
Schlebusch sat in eighth place with the chasing pack as they tried to reel in Denmark’s Sif Bendix Madsen and Switzerland’s Anja Weber, who were opening a sizeable gap.
“I knew my weakest part was the swim,” Schlebuch said. “And during the bike section I was in the pack at the back, but nobody was really working so it was quite hard to close into the first two.”
The South African demonstrated her fighting spirit on the five-kilometre run, where she started making ground on the leaders.
She produced a blistering final 1km run overtaking Bendix Madsen with less than 500 metres to go.
Madsen was awarded the silver medal, posting a time of 58:56 with Weber claiming bronze in 59:36.
“On the run, that is where I put most of my confidence, and I just decided to catch them one by one,” Schlebusch said. “Take each one as it comes. I tried to close (them) down and (it) managed to work.”
Schlebusch’s gold medal is another major coup for one of South Africa’s smallest, yet successful federations at multi-sport events.
Earlier this year Henri Schoeman won the men’s triathlon gold at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Schoeman also won the bronze at the Rio Olympic Games with compatriot Richard Murray finishing in fourth place.
In the men’s triathlon final at the Youth Games, Christiaan Stroebel could not repeat his female counterpart’s success yesterday. He finished in 21st place in a time of 57:34, which was four minutes behind New Zealand winner Dylan McCullough.
Meanwhile, the South African women’s hockey team won their first two matches of the Games.
Playing the Hockey5s format, the Proteas women beat Uruguay 4-3 on the first day before romping to a 11-0 victory over the South Pacific Islands of Vanuatu yesterday.