South African Amber Schlebusch is the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympics champion

by Olalla Cernuda/ITU Media

With a fantastic run that allowed her to fly in the last kilometers of the race, young South African Amber Schlebusch claimed the gold medal at the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games. With a run split of 17 minutes and 15 seconds, Schlebusch got for her country their first ever medal in triathlon at the Youth Olympics. In second place on the finish line was Danish Sif Bendix Madsen while Anja Weber (SUI) claimed bronze, with the three athletes in the podium being born in the same week of July 2001.

“I’m in this sort of disbelief right now, it feels amazing I really can’t believe it. Now I can say I’m the Youth Olympic champion, it’s a pretty good title to have so I’m really stoked. I have no words” said an extremely happy Schlebusch after crossing the finish line. “It was a bad swim but then I caught up on the run, I’m really really happy to end up feeling really strong”, she said.

The race started in a sunny morning in Buenos Aires but chilly water, at 18.9 degrees, so all athletes decided to wear a wetsuit except one brave young women, Chinese Xingying Yu. Wearing a wetsuit was in fact one of the challenges to some of the young triathletes, with little experience on international competitions and even less on racing with a wetsuit, as explained Karina Clemant (VEN), using a wetsuit for the first time on a race here in Buenos Aires.

With the athletes diving in the clear waters sharply at 11 am, it was the American Maryhelen Albright who lead in the first strokes, only to stop right after the first buoy and ask for medical assistance. Japanese Maki Uchida took the lead then, and managed to open a small gap of almost 10 seconds with the two chasers: Weber and Schlebusch.

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When the girls jumped on their bikes, it was the Swiss who took the lead with Sif Bendix Madsen right at their feet. Both of them worked together strongly across the first two laps of the technical course, while behind them a group of seven athletes was trying to chase, but with not much luck, as they were less organised than the leaders. With two laps to go, the leaders had 26 seconds, that by the end of the 20km bike was 37 seconds.

Bendix Madsen and Weber were the first ones out of the second transition, with Eva Daniels (LUX), Barbara De Koning(NED), Brea Roderick (NZL) and Schlebusch behind them. And during the tough run course of 5km, it looked clear that the Danish was the one to beat. She dropped Weber in the first lap of 2.5km, not knowing that behind her, Schlebusch was flying in the last kilometers of the run. She quickly passed rivals one by one to finally pass Bendix Madsen with less than 500 meters to go. It was then when the young South African smiled and enjoyed her moment, taking the tape in 58 minutes and 47 seconds, with the fastest run split of the day.

Behind her, second place was for Bendix Madsen while Weber managed to keep the bronze medal finishing a few seconds ahead of Eva Daniels, who finished in fourth place. Great performance also for the Ecuadorian Paula Vega, only 15 years of age, who finished in 5th place, the first American crossing the finish line.

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While most of the field was quite new on international races, is not the first podium for Schlebusch, who not only won the qualifying YOG event for Africa, but also finished in the second place in the Tiszjauvarus European Junior Cup this year. “I knew that my weakest part was the swim. And in the back of the bike pack nobody was really working so it was quite hard to close into the first two, but on the run that is where I put most of my confidence in. I just decided to catch them one by one. Take each one as it comes. And it worked”, she said. “I haven’t ever seen these athletes before, when I raced in Europe, so I didn’t really know how they could do the run. I could see them in front though, even if they were quite far, they were about 30 seconds in front of me just off the bike. I tried to close down and managed to work. I wasn’t expecting a medal, I was expecting a top-10 finish. I wanted a top-10 quite badly, but this is even better”, she explained.

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