On Thursday, in Chicago, Wian Sullwald will endeavour to do what no other South African triathlete has ever done. He has set his sights on winning a second world title in one of the elite categories. In 2012 Sullwald was the junior world champion.
On this occasion he will try to win the under-23 world title. After his sixth place finish ten days ago at the World Series event in Edmonton, Sullwald is quietly confident that he might be able to get the result he wants. But he will not take anything for granted.
His experience this season has taught him that things often do not work out as planned. The Tuks/HPC athlete has had a tough season. After a long battle to recover from the tick bite fever which caused havoc to his immune system, at long last he seemed fighting fit again in Edmonton.
Sullwald says: ‘I have said before Edmonton that I was going to Chicago to have a go at the under-23-title. It is something I have to get behind me because next year my main focus will be to get good results in the World Series and to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio.’ He is currently ranked 27th on the points list of the International Triathlon Union. At last year’s World Championships in Edmonton he finished ninth in the under-23 race, which was not a bad result considering that he raced with a bruised hip and had to contend with a stomach bug during the race as well.
Sullwald realises that it is important not to become obsessed with the idea of winning. He says: ‘It will be important to just focus on doing the small things right. If I can manage to do that, I know the result will take care of itself.’ Sullwald has proved in Edmonton that it his ability to run with the best that makes him such a good triathlete. Therefore, if he can get off his bike with the leaders it will be hard to stop him from winning.
To say that the men’s start list is stacked will be an understatement. Names from all corners of the globe have turned up to battle it out in one epic race. With many athletes already making waves in the elite field this year, the crown of under-23 World Champion is completely up for grabs. Some of the athletes that Sullwald will have to watch will be: Britain’s Gordon Benson (a member of the bronze medal team at the Mixed Relay World Championships in Hamburg earlier this year); Marc Austin (Britain) (he is familiar with pressure and has claimed the silver medal in Edmonton at the 2014 Grand Final) and Jacob Birtwhistle (Australia) (his most impressive race to date as an elite was when he earned a top-ten finish at Yokohama in the World Triathlon Series).
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott