Durban North triathlete and Elite Athlete Development Programme (EADP) member, Henri Schoeman’s bronze medal in the Men’s Triathlon at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday comes as the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Sport and Recreation backed programme’s first ever Olympic medal.
Alongside athletes such as 200m sprinter Anaso Jobodwana, swimmers Myles Brown, Matthew Meyer and Calvyn Justus, sprint canoeist Bridgitte Hartley, open water swimmers Chad Ho and Michelle Weber and cross country mountain biker Alan Hatherly, Schoeman has flown both the programme’s and nation’s flag high at the Brazilian showpiece.
“I have no words, there are no words to describe how excited I am,” Schoeman said shortly afterwards. “When I was crossing that line, I was just full of emotions and I’m just really happy that I made everyone back home in South Africa proud.”
“I’m so happy for this amazing athlete,” echoed Prime Human Performance Institute Director, Dennis Jackson. “Henri deserves everything he has achieved!”
Despite a difficult final week’s preparations, Schoeman blazed his way to third place in the testing swim-cycle-run event behind British brothers, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee and ahead of his rampant Team South Africa team mate, Richard Murray.
“This is my first international triathlon medal and for it to happen here at the Olympics – I’m just ecstatic; it’s amazing!
“I have loved racing and competing in sport since I can remember. Competing at the Olympics has been one of my biggest dreams.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Schoeman though, his lifelong dream and four years of preparation having been on the verge of derailment just days before the clash.
“The week leading up to the race (was) very tough and testing,” Schoeman’s girlfriend of five years, Franzel Allen posted on Facebook.
“Years of preparation were threatened by a common cold turned chest infection.”
Despite his final phase build-up troubles, Schoeman emerged from the water seventh and remained with the ten-bike lead group throughout the 40km cycle leg before clinging to third place on the 10km run.
“More proud I could not be if I tried!” added Allen. “I am yet to meet someone with more dedication and love for what they do.”
Since its introduction just two years ago as part of a plan to enhance the development of KZN based athletes, the EADP has produced countless national and international accolades.
Schoeman’s feat has now paved the way for his fellow EADP members to sparkle at coming editions of the globe’s greatest sporting event though.
“Our EADP has only been operational for two years and Henri has been with us from the beginning,” said Jackson.
“He is one of the hardest working athletes who always gives everything at training.
“When we started the programme, we were focusing on the 2020 Olympics in Japan as our first medal opportunity because we were only two years out from these Rio games.
“We were ecstatic with our eleven athletes being selected for Rio and now to have won a medal has exceeded our expectations!
“We are so grateful to the KZN Department of Sport and Recreation for entrusting this programme to us at Prime Human Performance Institute.
“We are looking forward to using Henri’s feat to now build towards the future, Tokoyo 2020 and the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Durban in particular.”