Modern Athlete Magazine Issue 55, February 2014 - Page 13

Feature oving the Tri Life 2012 was a great year for Gillian Sanders. A mere 15 months after turning professional, she was crowned the 2012 African Triathlon Champion and South African National Champion, recorded her best finish in an ITU World Cup event, finishing fourth in Ishigaki, Japan, and then she topped all of that by representing South Africa at the London 2012 Olympics. It was almost inevitable that 2013 would be a bit of a downer… – BY SEAN FALCONER Ask Gill about about 2013 and she answers quite frankly: “I’m not one for excuses, but I did not realise how much 2012 and the lead-up to the Olympics took out of me. There were still some good results – African Champ, European Cup podium, top 10 in Yokohama – however, I expected so much more of myself,” says Gill. “I do take great heart, or maybe relief, in scrolling through the London 2012 results and noticing that it was not just me who failed to make an impact on the circuit last year. I think people underestimate how much an Olympic year takes out of you and the difficulty in coming back the following year from such a high. However, it has made me hungry again. While I felt deflated at the end of last season, I feel ‘ubermotivated’ now! I can’t wait for the 2014 season and to express my full potential.” NATURAL ATHLETE Gill (32) grew up in Pietemaritzburg and soon proved a gifted runner and swimmer, in keeping with the family trend. Her father, Kenneth Curr, had run the marathon for SA in the SA Games in the 1970s, then gone on to ultra-marathons and competed at numerous World Triathlon Championships, while her mother Margaret earned pro triathlete. SA colours for the 100m, 200m and 400m. Older sister Rowena was also a talented triathlete, so it was no surprise that Gill also got into multi-sport at the tender age of nine, and when she was just 13, she finished fifth in the 13-15 age group at the 1995 World Tri Champs in Mexico, going on to represent her country many more times. After school, Gill moved to Stellenbosch University for five years to study law, and while there she met her future husband, Mark, a cricketer at the time and also originally from KZN. Having completed her studies, she moved back to Pietermaritzburg and subsequently became the youngest female lawyer to appear in the High Court in South Africa. Then the opportunity arose to go work in London, and it was here that Gill found herself racing on the elite ITU circuit. However, balancing a demanding legal career with tri training and competition was proving too much, so at the end of 2010 she decided to put her legal career on hold in order to turn pro. OLYMPIC HIGHLIGHT The move paid off handsomely when Gill was selected to represent SA in London, and she says the Olympics have definitely been the highlight of her career thus far. “I finished 19th out of 55 girls, and I was really pleased with that, as I had only been racing for 18 months as a full-time athlete.” Looking ahead, she says the long-term goal is getting to the Rio 2016 Games, but for now she is building up to the Commonwealth Games in August while also focusing on getting more great results on the ITU circuit. “I’ll be 34 come the next Olympics, so I’ll probably have to think of packing