Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
VETERAN Zimbabwean triathlete Rory Mackie is the latest entrant in this year’s Bonaqua Troutbeck Africa Triathlon Union Sprint Triathlon African Cup to be held in Nyanga on Saturday.
The 36-year-old Mackie joins Gideon Benade (19) as the only Zimbabwean elite men for the annual event. Mackie and Benade are the first Zimbabweans to take part in the Troutbeck event since former Olympian Christopher Felgate last competed in 2012.
Mackie last competed in Troutbeck in April 2006 when he finished second to South African Erhard Wolfaardt. His last international recorded race was in August of the same year when he competed in the Mombasa International Triathlon Union African Cup and emerged fourth.
Reports in January 2007 indicated that Mackie had quit as a professional triathlete, almost seven years after taking the local triathlon scene by storm. He attributed his decision to a troublesome shoulder injury, which he sustained after being attacked by an elephant in November 2003.
With Jonathan Zipf of Germany having withdrawn, the elite men start list remains at 16. As was the case last year, defending champions are not taking part in Troutbeck. German born Jonas Schomburg, the elite men’s winner in 2017, and women’s champion Aoi Kuramoto of Japan are not competing this year.
Zimbabwe Triathlon Union president Rick Fulton said international triathletes will arrive in the country on Thursday and will be driven to Nyanga on the same day.
The Troutbeck event has had Africa Triathlon Cup status for 11 years, making it the longest running competition on the African continent.
Schomburg lived up to his pre-event favourite tag last year when he beat dark horse, Namibian Jean Paul Burger, who came second, and Stimmel of Germany (third). Schomburg pocketed $750, Burger ($500) and Stimmel ($250). With Schomburg not taking part, Burger and Stimmel head into the men’s race as favourites.
South African Cindy Schwulst, who finished second last year, is the favourite in the women’s elite race. Schwulst is one of four South Africa women confirmed for the event, while the other female entrant is from Hong Kong.
Prize money for this year stands at $3 000, with first place in the elite men and women set to pocket $750 each, while $450 will go to runners-up and $300 to third place finishers.
Distances for this year’s event have been reduced, with the elite competitors set to do a 750m swim, cycle for 20km and run 5km. In 2017, the distances were 1 500m swim, 40km cycle and 10km run.
This event also marks the second anniversary for Bonaqua as the official sponsor of the triathlon after taking over from Schweppes Water, which had been the sponsor for three years. Other partners that have maintained their support for the event include Bon Marche, DHL, Rooney’s, Ilala Lodge, KW Blasting, Bokomo, Dendairy, Hellenic Academy and Bratz Base.
Plenty of competitive sports activities, which include the elite Under-23 sprint, HAC 18km road run, aquathlon, super sprints, off road triathlons, tri-kids and team relays will be on offer.