Amber Schlebusch claimed South Africa’s first gold medal at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in an absolute thriller of a race.
The 17-year-old won the women’s triathlon event – the country’s first gold medal in the event – in a sensational hour.
Schlebusch, who began her athletic journey as a swimmer, went into the chilly water confident but as she exited that first segment she was not even in the top five.
“I was a swimmer before the triathlon and it’s funny the swim now is my worst segment,” Schlebusch said after the event.
“I knew that my weakest part was the swim,” she 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.”
At the end of the cycling segment, a little over 40 minutes after the 11am start time, the Durban-born athlete found herself wallowing in eighth place – almost a minute behind the leader, Sif Bendix Madsen from Denmark.
“On the run, that is where I put most of my confidence, and I just decided to catch them one by one. Take each one as it comes,” Schlebusch said at the end of the race.
Schlebusch made up for lost time and after the first two laps of the 5km run she was in third, running each circuit 30 seconds faster than her Danish rival and almost 60 seconds faster than the second place Swiss, Anja Weber.
With 500m to go, the South African overtook Madsen and crossed the line to claim gold 11 seconds ahead of the Danish athlete.
This is South Africa’s first-ever youth triathlon Olympic gold.
“I’m really, really happy to end up feeling really strong. Now I can say I’m the Youth Olympic champion. It’s a pretty good title to have so I’m really stoked. I’m in this sort of disbelief right now.”
“We had planned for a top three and Amber surprised us by putting her head down racing and getting that gold medal,” Riana Robertson, the Team SA triathlon coach said.
Christiaan Stroebel is set to compete in the men’s triathlon action event on Monday.
- Additional information triathlon.org