Triathlon is an Olympic sport with significant sponsorship and an international competition circuit. Biathle and biathlon is somewhat more obscure, and popular in platteland schools and towns throughout South Africa.
Biathle features swimming and running as one continuous event. The race length is usually 200 m swim and 3 km run. Hendrik de Villiers was world champion 2001 - 2003, before switching to triathlons.
Biathlon (Tweekamp) is a multisport discipline that involves running and swimming over various distances for the different age groups. These two separate disciplines take place at different times on the same day. All athletes will first run their event on the track and after ALL the running numbers have been completed all athletes will swim their events in either a 25m or 50m pool.
Times are recorded for each athlete and points are then allocated according to the times recorded. The ideal will be to achieve at least 1000 points for the running discipline and 1000 points for the swimming discipline to then have a total of at least 2000 points.
Three girls from Eunice High School (above) - Lezelle and Amanda Markgraaf and Jeanine Steenkamp were also Springbok swimmers. Lezelle and Janine won scholarships to swim at American universities.
Triathlon is like the biathle, but with a cycling leg after the swim. It is an Olympic sport. An Ironman Triathlon is one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organized by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC), consisting of a 2.4-mile (3.86 km) swim, a 112-mile (180.25 km) bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile (42.20 km) run, raced in that order and without a break. It is widely considered one of the most difficult one-day sporting events in the world. The only Ironman event in Africa is held annually in Port Elizabeth.
Many South African swimmers have also excelled in biathle, triathlon and biathlon. In South Africa these include former EP swimmers Kevin Richards, and Mandy Dean, who reached number two in the triathlon world rankings.
Natal swimmer Paula Newby-Fraser is a legend in the international women's triathlon. Olympic medallist Marianne Kriel is also has Springbok colours for biathlon (running and swimming). Former Capetonian Simon Lessing was a British Olympian and world champion triathlete.
The history of these sports remains mostly untold.
2 April 1997
Heather Ball, a Std 7 pupil at Table View High School, broke a ten-year-old u15 record of swimmer Marianne Kriel at the Western Province Biathlon Championships in Bellville. The record of 2340 points was beaten with 16 points. Heather achieved this by running the 1000 metres in a time of 3 minutes 3 seconds and swimming 100 metres in 1 minute 4 seconds. She is only eight points away from the SA record of 2364 points, which she will try and achieve at the SA modern biathlon championships in Worcester. Heather is a keen swimmer and enjoys the middle distance running events. She has been awarded WP Schools colours for swimming and cross country. On April 6 she will be part of the WP team to participate in Port Elizabeth for junior Springbok colours at the SA long distance biathlon.
The African Triathlon Union was founded in 1993 in Gordon’s Bay near Cape Town. The first African Olympic distance Triathlon Championships took place on 20 March 1993 in Gordon’s Bay. Three hundred athletes from Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa competed in the event. Nineteen year old Conrad Stoltz (1:48:19) and Hannele Steyn (2:03:34) from South Africa were the winners of the Elite race.
Initially the African Championships took place every second year – the second event went to Trout beck Inn in Nyanja, Zimbabwe and the third to Mauritius. When the Sydney Olympic qualifying criteria came out, the status of the African Championships increased as the continental qualifying spot was awarded to the winner of the last event before the Olympic Games, while the annual championship events awarded ITU world-ranking points.
One of the oldest international Triathlon events in Africa is the Mariental Triathlon hosted at the Hardap Dam in Namibia. Initially the event was called the Sub Sahara International Triathlon and later it became an International Triathlon Union event, as the ITU Mariental African Cup.
In 2005 the ITU initiated continental triathlon cups in all five continents. The series formed part of the ITU world ranking series. South Africa, Namibia, Mauritius, Kenya and Tunisia hosted African Cup events at exotic venues like la Coco Beach in Mauritius, Fort Jesus in Mombasa, Kenya and Jasmine Hammamet on the Mediterranean coast of Tunisia.
In 2006 the first ITU World Cup event took place at Richards Bay, South Africa. It was followed with two more World Cup events in 2007 and 2008 and brought fame to South African organization skills and hospitality.
Today the African Triathlon Union has spread its wings over the continent of Africa and with a strategic goal of more federations, new development initiatives has taken the sport to countries like Kenya, Morocco, Tunisia, Nigeria and Madagascar.
The African Triathlon Union has strong partnerships with their National Federations, the other Regional Confederations and the International Triathlon Union. Developing the sport towards 2012 is based on good teamwork and sharing the same values and goals.