By Chelsea White on 10/02/17 at 12:00 pm
Many times for an athlete, there are defining moments in their career where everything finally starts to fall into place. Where all the long training sessions, hard exhausting days and every drop of sweat finally pays off.
In 2016, South Africa’s Henri Schoeman never had one of those defining moments… because he had two!
During the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, Schoeman earned the bronze medal in the men’s race in his debut Olympic appearance. He then followed up that dream-worthy performance by winning his first-ever World Triathlon Series race at the Cozumel Grand Final. After checking off two milestones in the timespan of a month, the triathlon world has been introduced to a whole new level of Schoeman and is eagerly awaiting what he has in store for the new 2017 season.
Schoeman starting competing in the elite field in 2011, after spending a couple seasons in the junior ranks. He adapted into the sport from a swimming background, so not long after starting to compete it became evident that he excelled in one of the disciplines over the rest of the field. Eventually he carved a special namesake for himself as a huge threat in the swim. Tuning into a race, it became a competition norm to see the Vereeniging, South Africa native be one of the leading men out of the water, a move that started to act as his signature race form.
“It’s been great to stand out and be known for a certain aspect of the triathlon. I come from a strong swimming background and being one of the fastest swimmers came as no surprise.”
In Rio, Schoeman knew that he would have to use his swift swimming abilities to once again perform well and be one of the top men out of the water if he wanted a fighting chance to get on the podium. So it was no mistake that he ended up selecting his beach start position next to the Brownlee brothers, Alistair and Jonny, who he knew would also be strong in the swim.
That strategic move paid off and he exited seventh from the water and joined the front bike pack that ultimately allowed him to position himself in a good spot for the run, where he blew past the competition and lead him right to his historical bronze medal.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Rio. The Olympics has been everything to me while growing up and winning a medal has been one my biggest dreams.”
Realizing his Olympic dream would have been enough for Schoeman, he could have ended his season being proud of achieving such a huge accomplishment. But knowing that the ITU season wasn’t over yet, he then switched his focus to doing well at the Cozumel Grand Final just a few weeks later.
Once again Schoeman earned the advantage due to his signature style and exited fifth out of the water. He found the leading bike pack and then delivered on the run. Just like in Rio, he found the podium once again, but this time he was on the top of it, winning his first WTS race in his career. The victory also helped him finish fourth in the world in the overall rankings.
“Some days it still feels surreal. Winning an Olympic medal has been my biggest dream for as long as I can remember. There are very few words I can use to describe what it felt like then and how it feels now.
Both races were life changing and career altering experiences and I am more determined than ever not to lose that winning feeling.”
Schoeman reached new heights in his career in 2016. And while he has always been admired for his abilities out on the course, there were some slight differences that he contributes to his end of the season success.
“Hard work. I’ve been training hard over so many years, first as a swimmer and the last 6 or so years in triathlon. I was just waiting for that breakthrough moment. I knew I could be one of the best in the sport but kept coming short in races when it mattered. It couldn’t have happened at a better time in Rio and then Cozumel Grand Final.”
And now that the new season is set to begin, along with the new found fame that has brought more attention to his brand and to his nation, Schoeman is ready to take on 2017 at full force with new goals and new ambitions.
“I still have plenty of room for improvement. My goal is to continue improving and being the best I can be. I am aiming for some podiums in WTS events this year and if I can better my world ranking at 4 from 2016 I will be thrilled!”
So in the offseason, he has been working hard to try and keep the momentum up from last year and carry it out into the new competition season. And with the first World Cup race of year being held in Cape Town, South Africa, in front of his own nation is the perfect opportunity to show that he can perform as one of the top elite men in the field.
“My offseason started off very slow. After some months of floating on a cloud I had my low. I was also really busy, traveling around a lot. Since the start of the new year things picked up fairly quickly and I’ve already had some impressive sessions so I’m excited to race my season opener in the Cape Town World Cup. It’s great opening the season with a local World Cup. There’s no better motivation to train a little harder than you should so early in the season and be in good shape. Racing well in front of locals is always a must.”
So now that we have seen him win an Olympic medal and then a WTS gold, what can the world expect from Henri Schoeman this season (apart from a newly dyed platinum blonde hairstyle)?
“Expect me to be mixing it up in the front of the race until the finish line!”