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Sport

Cape athlete poised for World Games debut

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Twenty-five-year-old Cape Town-born athlete, Jonathan Benjamin, is “beyond thrilled” to be selected to compete for South Africa in the 2022 World Games in the duathlon discipline.

“It has always been a dream of mine to represent our country,” says this master’s in environmental science student at Rhodes University, who is looking forward to competing in Alabama in the United States in July. “Being only one of two men selected for duathlon and considering the prestige of the games, this selection is that much more special.”

Meant for sports or disciplines within a sport that weren’t contested at the Olympic Games, the eleventh World Games was originally scheduled for July 2021 but was postponed to this year after the rescheduling of the 2020 Olympic Games.

The games will feature 30 official sports in 54 disciplines, which will be contested at 30 venues.

Appearing at the games for the second time, duathlon consists of a running leg, a cycling leg, and a final second running leg.

South Africa has bagged 35 medals at the games, placing the country 34th out of the 99 countries that have medalled at the event, but Benjamin doesn’t believe he will become the first South African to medal in the duathlon.

“I definitely won’t be competing up near the front of the race,” he says. “I’m still very new to the sport and have a long way to go to be near the front of this type of calibre of race, but obviously I’m hoping to do my best, beat my own personal time, and hopefully finish relatively competitively in the field.”

Athletics has always been a passion of Benjamin’s, who went to Herzlia Constantia Primary School and matriculated at Westerford High School.

He comes from a sporting family. His dad was a provincial triathlete who was part of the first group to compete in the Ironman World Championships, his mom was a provincial water skier, and his sister was a provincial water polo player.

Placing third at the 2021 African Continental Duathlon Championships in Namibia allowed Benjamin to qualify for the World Games.

“I had to compete in South Africa at a local level as well – provincial championships, South African championships, and then at the African Duathlon Championships,” he says.

Benjamin says he’s fortunate to be coached by Carl Mangan, one of the founders of Matrix Multisport, a coaching and mentorship service which offers training programmes for duathlon, triathlon, biathlon, swimming, cycling, and running.

“Apart from the excellent personalised training plans set out each week, Carl and the rest of the team provide continuous support and monitoring of our progress and adapt our training to where it needs to be,” says Benjamin. “On top of this, the team that the matrix group has brought together provides an enormous amount of support and camaraderie.”

Benjamin’s training regimen differs from week to week, based on his academic work and how soon an event is. “Having to balance my master’s and training, my hours aren’t very big at all, typically 15 to 20 hours of training a week,” he says.

He also competes in triathlon. “That’s how I got into duathlon,” he says. “Swimming being my weakest sporting discipline makes duathlon perfect for me, although I’ve won triathlon national championships two years in a row for my age group.”

Looking forward to his future in athletics, Benjamin says, “I want to be the best athlete I can be and just see where that takes me. Currently, it’s taking me to America. Let’s see what happens after that.”

Should the going ever get tough for Benjamin, he could take heed of the advice shared by Nik Cook, who won gold in the 35 to 39 male age group at the 2012 International Triathlon Union World Long Course Duathlon Championships in Zofingen, Switzerland.

“Accept and embrace the pain in your legs at the start of the second run,” said Cook, according to 220triathlon.com. “Have faith that it’ll ease. Relax, focus on form, and find your rhythm. Everyone will be hurting. It won’t be pretty, but tough it out and keep running.”

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