FORMER top Zimbabwe triathlete, Rory Mackie will make an emotional return to international competition when he lines up in the Bonaqua Troutbeck ATU Sprint Triathlon African Cup at the Troutbeck Resort today.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO IN NYANGA
The 36-year-old veteran triathlete was one of Zimbabwe’s brightest prospects in the multi-discipline sport until his blossoming career was almost cut short when he was gored by an elephant while training in 2013.
Mackie had been earmarked to represent the country at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games after winning the Under-23 title 2002 ITU Duathlon World Championships in Georgia.
Although he attempted to make a comeback after the accident where he sustained serious injuries, Mackie never recaptured his old form. He was forced to retire from the sport in 2006.
Now 12 years after calling time on his international career, Mackie, who is now based in Zambia, will attempt to script a fairytale comeback when he takes on 14 other triathletes from Australia, Namibia, Germany, South Africa, Luxembourg and Hong Kong.
The Zimbabwean has good memories of his last race in Nyanga after finishing second to South African Erhard Wolfaardt in April 2006.
Mackie will be one of only two Zimbabweans in the men’s elite field together with 20-year-old former Peterhouse student Gideon Benade, who will be making his elite debut in Nyanga.
The duo become Zimbabwe’s first elite representatives in six years since the retirement of two-time Olympian Chris Felgate in 2012.
Mackie was scheduled to join the rest of his elite counterparts late yesterday from his Zambian base.
”This race is all about learning for me… I know the course, I know what to expect, it’s just about how the race is gonna pan out on the day,” Benade told reporters at a pre-race media briefing here yesterday.
“Obviously, because we have got a bigger field of elites and probably all these guys have been racing longer than I…obviously tough on my side, but in terms of preparations it’s basically just the same and I will try to do this as fast as possible.”
He said it was also a great pleasure to be racing against some of the athletes he used to watch race while he was still a junior.
“Its good to be racing with these guys and while I looked at them, as a junior, as some of my idols, to be racing with them is good fun and a great honour,” Benade said.
He said he would be using his debut elite race as a learning curve to kickstart his goal of qualifying for the 2024 Rome Olympic Games.
The battle for the top spot on the winner’s podium is expected to be wide open in the absence of German-born Jonas Schomburg, the elite men’s winner in 2017.
South Africa once again dominate the elite women race with four making up the five-member list.
In the women’s elite race, South African Cindy Schwulst will be hoping it’s a case of third time lucky after finishing second in the last three editions of the Bonaqua Troutbeck ATU Sprint Triathlon African Cup.
Just like in the elite men’s race, the defending champion Aoi Kuramoto of Japan is not competing this year.
The Troutbeck event has had Africa Triathlon Cup status for 11 years, making it the longest-running competition on the African continent.