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Alex Yee wins Cape Town ITU World Cup

With his 21st birthday still eight days away, Great Britain's Alex Yee earned an early present with victory in the Cape Town ITU Triathlon World Cup

Chief Correspondent
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20 year-old Brit wins his first ITU Triathlon World Cup Gold in South Africa

Japan’s Ai Ueda runs to victory ahead of Summer Rappaport

Around three years ago now, a former and distinguished Great Britain Elite athlete and coach told me his opinion on Alex Yee’s potential in the sport. He said, quite directly, “Alex Yee is a f&%^ing freak. He has the potential to do pretty much anything, he has that much talent. The longer that people don’t know about him, the better, so we can just let him get on with developing quietly without expectation.”

While I’ve personally been following Alex since his very first multisport races, perhaps a decade or more ago, his ‘cover’ to the wider triathlon world was more than blown in 2018, when – as a triathlete – he won the British Senior 10,000m track championship title. He ran a fraction under 27:52 while doing that at Highgate last year, and went on to represent Great Britain at the European Athletics Championships in Berlin (via a 13:34 5000m run in the London Diamond League event). Already a European (2017) and World (2016) Junior Duathlon Champion, 2018 was the year that the triathlon and running world’s all took significant notice of the fast-running young Brit at senior level.

Ending his 2018 (triathlon) season with a Triathlon World Cup Bronze medal in China, another highlight in the soon to be 21 year old’s career today, with an impressive win to kick off 2019 at the Discovery Triathlon World Cup Cape Town. It may be eight days early, but happy 21st Alex. A $7,500 winners cheque too.

Without winner for the last two years, Richard Murray, the race was always going to be a little more open – and while a World Cup event is one level down from the top tier World Triathlon Series, the start-list still featured Olympic Bronze medallist, Grand Final Final winner and Commonwealth Games Champion, Henri Schoeman (RSA) along with many familiar WTS names such at Joao Silva (POR), Richard Varga (SVK), Justus Nieschlag (GER), Vicente Hernandez (ESP) and Shachar Sagiv (ISR).

No surprise to see Varga, Schoeman and Igor Polyansky (RUS) lead the way in the water, an 8:01, with Yee’s relative weakness in the water still showing, a full minute back. Despite that gap, by T2 around 40 athletes would start the run within 15 seconds as the field came back together on the bike. Yee was out of transition 14 seconds down on leader Schoeman and in 36th position. That didn’t last for too long.

Alex found his run form immediately and by the end of the first lap had no only overturned his deficit, but pushed on and taken a significant lead of 13 seconds. Too much, too soon? Absolutely not.

With a 14:41 run split, only second placed Smoragiewicz (14:59) and third placed Silva (14:57) went under 15 minutes, resulting in what was a comfortable winning margin of 15 seconds, while the US athlete got the better of Portugal in the sprint finish for second place, two seconds ahead of 2018 Commonwealth Games Gold medallist, Schoeman.

A great result for Alex – and indeed the Great Britain men’s team. With Olympic qualifying starting this season, that will surely mean Yee will earn his first WTS event starts, while the additional country points will assist after what was a less than stellar year in 2018 from the British men in ITU World Series events.

Yee continues to show his triathlon potential – while the results analysis highlights the (already known) weaknesses. The youngster has the potential to win at the highest level – and depending on how races play out tactically, will likely also see himself from time-to-time finishing significantly out of podium contention if he misses the (bike) train back towards the front of the race. At 21 years old and improving year-on-year, that’s normal and will provide a great education to a young man who has already proven his ability to deal with the lows, as well as the highs of sport.

Enjoy the journey and – going back to the first paragraph – it’s not yet time to heap too much pressure on his shoulders.

Ueda powers to victory

At 35 years of age, Japan’s three-time Olympian Ai Ueda is at the other end of the experience spectrum to Alex Yee – but once again, it was the run that was her key to victory today.

A small group of six – Fuka Sega (JPN), Summer Rappaport (USA), Tamara Gorman (USA), Rachel Klamer (NED), Sara Perez Sala (ESP) and Maya Kingma (NED) – tried to break clear on the bike, but the chase group headed by Ueda and Great Britain’s India Lee prevented them from getting too far away from the main pack.

On to the 5km run and Ueda closed her small T2 deficit to join Summer Rappaport (formerly Cook), starting the final lap of the run. Her closing run split of 16:56 was a full 16 seconds better than the American, who in turn was another 16 second quicker than Gorman, those three fastest run splits comprising the final podium positions too.

An excellent race from London-based South African, Gillian Sanders to take fifth place on home soil, while India Lee finished 15h with an 18:32 closing run split.

Discovery Triathlon World Cup Cape Town – Sunday 10th February 2019
750m / 20km / 5km

ELITE WOMEN

1st – Ai Ueda (JPN) – 57:23
2nd – Summer Rappaport (USA) – 57:31
3rd – Tamara Gorman (USA) – 57:44
4th – Rachel Klamer (NED) – 57:58
5th – Gillian Sanders (RSA) – 58:10

15th – India Lee (GBR) – 58:59

ELITE MEN

1st – Alex Yee (GBR) – 52:04
2nd – Tony Smoragiewicz (USA) – 52:19
3rd – Joao Silva (POR) – 52:19
4th – Henri Schoeman (RSA) – 52:21
5th – Justus Nieschlag (GER) – 52:23

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FULL RESULTS

John Levison
Written by
John Levison
TRI247's Chief Correspondent, John has been involved in triathlon for well over 30 years, 15 of those writing on these pages, whilst he can also be found commentating for events across the UK.

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