Gideon Benade bares soul

HARARE - Zimbabwe’s lone elite men triathlon representative Gideon Benade poured his heart out following an indifferent campaign in the just-ended Bonaqua Troutbeck Triathlon African Cup where he finished number eight out of a 19-man line up at the weekend.

German duo of Justus Nieschalag and Maximilian Schwetz claimed the elite men gold and silver medals respectively while Constantine Doherty of Ireland took bronze.

The women elite went to another German, Nina Eim, Amber Schlebusch of South Africa won silver while Ireland’s Carolyn Hayes settled for a bronze medal.

While the other nationals were rejoicing over podium finishes, Zimbabwe waited in anticipation for Benade’s arrival on the finishing line and showed lots of love for the aspiring Olympian cheering and clapping.

The 20-year-old, the country’s first elite representative since the retirement of two-time Olympian Chris Felgate seven years ago is working towards qualifying for the Rome 2024 Olympics.

He however, revealed that the desire would remain a pipe-dream if he does not get support from a cross-section of stakeholders as the journey to be an Olympian is very demanding.

“It’s just about training I guess. Clearly, I haven’t done enough…they all suited each other so lots of them were racing together and getting faster times. By my own I can’t really average that kind of speed so I guess I was racing my own demons,” a distraught Benade told reporters after the race in Troutbeck.

“In this race yes everyone likes to see results from their country but unfortunately without more support I can’t really produce more results. I will do my best to win but in that respect I will just carry on as I’m doing and hopefully pull through.”

The former Perterhouse College student added that he needed to explore many different courses in order to make it to the top and not just Zimbabwe and South Africa.

“I love to race in different countries not just in Zimbabwe and South Africa but also go in training camps and race with one of my good friends from Mauritius Timothee Hugnin.”

Benade’s sentiments were echoed earlier by Felgate who represented the country in the 2008 Beijing Games and London 2012 Olympics. Felgate said the journey towards being an Olympian is a tough road that needs a lot of sacrifice, determination and support from a cross-section of stakeholders.

Felgate had to quit his job, sell everything that he had in order for him to seek training opportunities around the globe.

“So, I had to quit my job, sold everything I had and I bought a ticket and basically travelled round the world with my bicycle and one suitcase pretty much everything I ended up having at the time. I once borrowed money from my uncle because I couldn’t afford... no one had heard of me so sponsorship was really hard to get,” Felgate said.

“I was able to make contact with a French triathlon club and I spent six months mid 2007 living in France and competing for a local club there and I was able to earn some Euros and get some really good racing and training experience also including training on some mountains which Tour de France athletes climb so that time in 2007 really increased my level of training and performance.

“It also came with its challenges at that time because of my lack of money I actually slept in the lounge of the president of the French club that I competed for he only had a one bedroom apartment and he basically partitioned off his lounge and that’s where I slept for the six months but it was all about racing and training that time so I didn’t really care.”

And more recently ex-swimmer Kirsty Coventry now Sports minister also highlighted the importance of getting maximum support when preparing for such a grand stage as the Olympics.

Coventry finished sixth in her final Olympic appearance in the 200m backstroke in Rio 2016 Olympics and then Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane said Team Zimbabwe had failed to deliver in Rio 2016.

“For me, obviously the goal being a competitive person was to win a medal but I knew the realistic realisation of that was extremely hard but I wanted to finish when I knew I had two-and-a-half-to-three years of solid full preparations, full support, full training...and we had the opportunity to tell that story but we didn’t take it we had to take those opportunities that were given to us,” Coventry said.