07 Apr. 17 – The Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) after consultation with the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality decided to pilot a performance based Ironman triathlon development programme geared for world champs in 2018. The agency put out a call for entries in February inviting all interested previously disadvantaged athletes to submit their biographies and 2016 race results for consideration. Six places were made available with one reserved for a new entrant to the Iron distance format. Over 20 entries were received and the best six (based on race finish times) were appointed and fielded for the event on the 2nd of April.
“The concept of a development initiative is not new and there are many fulfilling different mandates” says Luvuyo Bangazi, MBDA Spokesperson and Ironman athlete. Bangazi elaborates “What we set out to do differently was to create a platform that would give space and an environment for athletes of colour to participate competitively and on merit. The ultimate goal is to see some of these athletes qualify to perform at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships here in Nelson Mandela Bay in 2018”.
Athletes participate at an Ironman world championship event through qualification from any of the nearly 100 70.3 events around the world with South Africans getting an early chance as of the 2nd of April on races held in South Africa.
The MBDA team of six received a boost in March when two times Ironman Champion, former two times Age Group World Champion and Route 67 Brand Ambassador Kyle Buckingham spent a day with the athletes on all three disciplines. Buckingham spent the day swimming, cycling, running and motivating the athletes in preparation for the African Championship. Three of the six athletes are under the strict training regimen provided by 8 times Ironman Champion Raynard Tissink through his Team Tissink Triathlon training squad.
The MBDA offered these previously disadvantaged athletes the best opportunity to excel and gauge their performances against the best age group athletes in the world and the results are looking positive. The big improvements from the athletes are a sign that the programme is on the right track.
“The presence of nearly 800 (nearly 38% of the field) European athletes obviously made first attempt for 2018 qualification very difficult but at the same time it gave a glimpse of what to expect come World Champs. The first South African athlete of colour to hit the magic carpet is none other than Siyabulela Jabu Mpengesi in 10 hours and 23 minutes. The MBDA is satisfied with the outcome and aims to continue working with the City, providing the necessary support to qualifying previously disadvantaged athletes in the Bay” concluded Bangazi.