By Paul Groves on 11/09/16 at 1:39 pm
Throughout this year we have been keeping a close eye on the performances of the Age Group athletes.
Well, without them there would be no triathlon. Simple as that. We are the only sport that showcases our swim / bike / run at Championship level with Elite and Age Group athletes racing the same weekend, sometime the same day and using predominantly the same course.
Nicky Dick, Director of Age Group Teams for the British Triathlon Federation gave great insight in Lisbon with her presentation to all federations on how the Brits have been so successful in delivering massive teams to our championship events.
But, with this last event in Walchsee now over, has size been everything?
Let’s have a look at the successes and performances from the 2016 Walchsee ETU Challenge Middle Distance Triathlon European Championships.
This distance is becoming more and more popular as athletes use it as a stepping stone from the shorter distances up to full distance. It is also being used by those who want to up their speed over the longer distances and with the strong marketing power behind Challenge Family the market for athletes is wide open.
Walchsee saw many flags. In fact there were 16 nations and just under 700 athletes. A great representative spread from our ETU Federations.
For the women there were some amazing performances. The fastest time of the day went to Germany’s Simone Fürnkranz. Her finish time of 4:32:01would have put her in the top-ten of the Women’s Elite. She romped to victory in Kitzbühel in 2014, winning her category by a country mile. Moving up to Middle Distance, she still has time to give back to the sport with her work for the Niederösterreichischer Triathlonverband.
Not quite the oldest category, but certainly a good vintage, is the Women’s 65-69 one. This was won convincingly by GB’s Margaret Sills. She has some serious achievements behind her and has been a reliable member of the British Age Group team for many years now. Her contribution, away from racing, to her local club, Serpentine, which itself feeds athletes to the ETU and ITU calendar is significant.
Her victory, the biggest margin of all categories, male and female, comes after a pretty tough year for her.
As ever, she was philosophic, “As one wise man said: ‘allow your body to surprise you’ and this is exactly what I did. With enough patience and humility, it got me to where I was last year and even further! There’s still room for more, but I’m definitely closer to working WITH my body rather than just expecting it will listen to me. And being able to improve on last year's performance is the greatest award there is.”
It was Germany’s Elisabeth Onißeit who had the honour of being the oldest finisher amongst the women. Her 6:38:15 beat many others.
Germany, in fact had a clean sweep in the Women’s 45-49 category.
Gold went to Mannheim’s Marion Hebding with a 4:43:17. Silver went to Heike Funk who was there with her family. Bronze went to Annette Niederau who can add this medal to her bronze from Kalkar. The Funk Family were out in force as husband Harald, racing in the same category, took bronze behind fellow German, Ulrich Sure and home favourite, Alexander Frühwirth who has a firm place in the Austrian Hall of Fame for long distance athletes.
Keeping it in the family, Frederic Funk was there to help film his parents. He is now on his way to Cozumel – what a great advert for family participation and family enjoyment.
Triathlon – a sport for all! Click here to go to the You Tube video
Toughest race was between Sandrine Benz SUI and Janina Lorenz GER. Both were given the same time in the 30-34 category but the finish-line camera gave bronze to the Swiss athlete after the faster running from Benz took control.
Amongst the women, Germany took three golds to match the massive Team GB and the home nation, Austria. It was however, Germany and Great Britain that pretty much commanded the podium during the awards ceremony.
The men’s races saw once again a fantastic performance rom Germany’s Dominik Sowieja. He impressed us in Kalkar with utter domination of the ETU Duathlon Championships but here, from the moment he got into the swim he was in command. 3:58:19 was his winning time and one which would have placed him into the top ten of the Elite. He really is a young man to watch in future. His run pace, at 3:35 per km says it all. After the race he commented, “This result gives me confidence for next season. With my knee problems, I will now have a complete rest and won’t be doing any running for at least two weeks. This will sadly prevent me from racing for the Heilbronner Leichtathletik Team.” He has every right to be delighted and will, in 2017, be looking at Elite qualifications.
The oldest category for the men was 75-79. The winning time and indeed the silver medal time would have placed them in first and second position in the 70-74 category. Supreme power indeed. Gold went to Belgium’s Eli Iwens and silver to Daniel Escoffier FRA. Iwens was happy with his race, “A good swim and bike, Run could have been better but I’m happy with a sub 6-hour race. Mostly happy that I was able to run without any heel pain.” He is now heading off to Hawaii for a longer race. Iwens has dominated European endurance racing. Escoffier has mixed and matched the distances, racing standard, middle and long distances and has collected silvers along the way. Gold, this far has eluded the Frenchman.
Some truly exciting finishes were seen. In the 50-54 category, Dutch athlete Edwin Ophof took gold with a comfortable 11 minute winning margin over Dane, Claus Leinoe but behind them there was a battle going on between Switzerland and Great Britain. The Swiss athlete, Beat Widmer had the edge over GB’s Mike Davies in the swim. With almost 3 minutes over him and a stronger bike he must have thought that the podium was his but in the final stages of the race Davies just hunted him down to snatch bronze.
Germany showed great strength in the men’s races. With clean sweeps of gold, silver and bronze in three categories (Men 25-29, Men 35-39 and Men 55-59) the Deutsche Triathlon Union can be rightly pleased that their grass-roots athletes are this year the strongest in Europe . 6 golds, 6 silvers and 7 bronze medals for the men takes them clear into the lead in the medal table.
Title photo: Harald Kohlhaas
Find more details about this event - 2016 Walchsee ETU Challenge Middle Distance Triathlon European Championships