25 July 2014
Team South African bagged two medals on the opening day of the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on Thursday, with Richard Murray claiming bronze in the triathlon and Siyabulela Mabulu also winning bronze in the men’s judo competition.
Murray won South Africa’s first medal when he finished third behind England’s Brownlee brothers, with Olympic champion Alistair taking the win ahead of Jonathan, the Olympic bronze medallist.
‘I realised what this would mean’
“Wow! It was only half way through the run that I realised what this would mean,” an ecstatic Murray said afterwards.
“Before the race, I was a bit concerned. The water heated up and it meant no wet suits. That can sometimes change the dynamics sometimes, but it was wonderful out there.”
South Africa’s Henri Schoeman led the swim covering the 1.5km in 17:54, which gave him a four-second advantage over the Brownlees. The brothers pulled an additional six swimmers into the lead group, which had around 20 seconds advantage at the beginning of the 40km cycle.
‘The start was pretty rough’
“The start was pretty rough, but I managed to get through to the front at the end of the swim and tried to create a bit of a gap for a break away (in the cycle),” said a disappointed Schoeman, who skidded into a barrier on the first lap. “My brakes locked up. I’m lucky to have been upright. Without that it could have been much better.”
Murray posted the sixth-fastest time on the bike to come through in fifth place as he entered the 10km run.
“On the bike, I knew that first and second was probably out of the question, because it started to become tactical,” Murray explained. “I positioned myself right on the bike and made sure no one got away. It came down to the run and I knew third was possible for me and I just had to avoid injury or cramp.”
Older brother Alistair Brownlee took gold in 1:48:50, with his younger brother Jonny settling for silver only 11 seconds adrift.
Although Schoeman’s cycling incident cost him some time, he was able to continue on, starting the run in 18th position and moving up to finish in 16th place in 1:53:46. Wian Sullwald claimed 15th place, just three seconds ahead of his team mate.
In the women’s race, Kate Roberts was within touch of the lead group when Canada’s Ellen Pennock clipped the back wheel of Robert’s bike, sending the South African tumbling. After getting going again, she went on to finish 15th, one place behind team-mate Gillian Sanders.
Siyabulela Mabulu earned a surprise bronze medal in the 66kg division of the men’s judo after defeating India’s Manjeet Nandal for third place.
“I’m very happy and excited,” Mabulu told Road to Rio 2016 as he headed back to the athletes’ village. “I came to Glasgow to win a medal and now I’ve done that. I’m glad to win Team South Africa’s next medal.”
Mabulu’s fellow judoka, Daniel le Grange came close to adding a third bronze, but lost out to Scotland’s John Buchannon in the battle for third in the 60kg division.
Stars shine in the pool
In the swimming pool, Chad le Clos and Roland Schoeman sped into the final of the 50m butterfly, but Myles Brown, shockingly, missed out on qualifying for the 400m freestyle final.
“It’s a really good vibe in the squad with a mix of youth and maturity. It’s rewarding and good to be able to provide some knowledge and recommendations to them,” said the vastly experienced 34-year-old Schoeman after winning his heat to qualify for the semi-finals.
Le Clos won his heat in 23.65 and then made a major step up in the semi-finals.
Schoeman won his semi-final, clocking a fast 23.25 seconds, while Le Clos was only four-hundredths-of-a-second slower in finishing second to England’s Ben Proud in the second semi. Proud’s 23.16 was the fastest time of the day.
Based on his consistent form, Myles Brown should have been a shoo-in to qualify for the final of the 400m freestyle, but his time of 3:48.65 left him in ninth place, just one position too low to reach the final.
“I really don’t know what happened. I really should have been there. Maybe I went out too fast,” he admitted with disappointment afterwards. Brown will now focus on the 4x200m relay and the 1500m on Monday.
Karin Prinsloo contested the final of the women’s 200m freestyle, but did not have a good swim and finished last. She had earlier complained of tightness of her chest during the heats.
Fast breaststroke time
Games’ novice Tara Lynn Nicholas couldn’t stop smiling after clocking 31.48 for the 50m breaststroke to rank ninth and secure a semi-final place. “I’m really pleased. It’s the fastest I’ve gone,” Nicholas said.
In the semis, sadly, she could not reproduce the same form and clocked 32.32 to finish sixth in her heat. A repeat of her earlier swim would have seen Nicholas into the final.
Darren Murray reached the semi-finals of the 100m backstroke, but finished in sixth place in his heat to miss out on a place in the title-decider.
Like Murray, Marne Erasmus reached the semi-finals, but could not progress beyond that point, competing in the women’s 100m butterfly.
There was big disappointment for the women’s 4x100m freestyle relay squad, which was disqualified after botching a change over in the semi-finals. They had finished second behind Canada.
South Africa’s women’s fours bowls team suffered a shock 13-17 loss to the Norfolk Islands in their first outing.