Keith McGhie in Gold Coast @peoplesport11
There was double delight for Kenya’s sole triathlon competitor Hanifa Said despite leaving the waterfront Gold Coast course with nothing but a huge smile.
Hanifa finished the Commonwealth Games-opening women’s race a distant second from last yet, along with the one athlete behind her, Malaysia’s Yang Chen Yin, received almost as big an ovation from the crowd who lined the route as gold medal winner Flora Duffy from Bermuda.
It was a personal triumph for the 23-year-old from Mombasa, who was bitterly disappointed to be lapped, and so disqualified, at the same event in Glasgow four years ago.
“It was good fun and a bit surreal but I’m so glad that I got to finish the race. Next time I’ll go in a bit less nervous than this morning,” said Hanifa. “I grew up watching Flora Duffy on the TV and wishing to be like her, then all of a sudden you are on the same start line as her and it’s a bit scary.
It feels good that I was able to do my country a little proud because people in Kenya don’t understand triathlon too much, although it is now growing,” she added. “When I couldn’t finish the race last time, it looked as if I wasn’t strong enough, which obviously I wasn’t!”
Four years later, part time competitor Hanifa, helped by the halving of the Glasgow course length to what is termed “Sprint” distance, struggled to stay with the full-time favourites at the front but received massive applause and cheering around the whole of the picturesque Southport Broadwater Parklands setting.
“Yes, I was pleased they reduced the distance but that also made the race a lot faster, so it was hard but the people along the course helped me keep going,” she said.
Hanifa completed the 750 metre swim, 20km bike ride and 5km run in a total time of one hour, 15 minutes and 18 seconds, almost 18 and a half minutes behind her hero Duffy, who claimed the Games’ first gold medal in 56:50.
The demure Kenyan was last of the 24 contenders coming out of the water, last when she traded her bike for running shoes at the end of the second leg, but overhauled Yang in the closing stages of the run.
“Cycling is my favourite part,” admitted Hanifa ironically. Her namesake Mohamed Said, also from Mombasa but not related, was in the temporary stands by the finish to support her, despite carrying a plaster cast on the right hand he broke when falling from his bike in training on Tuesday. Mohamed should have contested the men’s event but was ruled out on medical advice.