A Wealth of Experience


SA’s two-time Olympic triathlete Kate Roberts is off to the Commonwealth Games this month with the hope of capturing a medal, having finally recovered from a lingering foot injury. Looking further ahead, she also sees herself reinvesting her know-how into the sport when she eventually decides to retire. 

After 15 years of participation in triathlon, Kate has raced all over the globe and her career CV is quite something to shout about: She holds seven ITU African Championship wins, several national triathlon and aquathlon titles as well as Energade series wins, has won several titles in France and Italy, and proudly wore the green and gold at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Olympics. Another highlight was finishing 2010 ranked seventh in the world, with her fourth-place finish at that year’s ITU Triathlon World Champs in Hamburg playing a leading role in her breaking into the global top 10.

Kate’s vast experience is sure to be a huge benefit to Team SA at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and she is happy to share her competitive wisdom. “This year at the Games, I’m one of the experienced ones alongside Richard Murray and Gillian Sanders. I’m used to that village environment of the Games, so I’m giving advice to the younger guys, telling them things I did right and wrong.”

These Games come at a time when Kate is re-evaluating her participation in the pro set-up, and so, because Glasgow’s ‘Friendly Games’ might be her international swansong, she’s treating it with a little more sentimentality. “I want to embrace that enjoyment factor… but this SA team also has a good chance at a medal, especially with Richard in the mix in the individual race, so we’re really excited. In the team race, I’m starting, so it’s crucial for me to set the team up well, then Henri Schoeman is second, and he can definitely make up time. Gillian will be a strong third leg, and obviously Richard is strong to bring us home.”

The Team’s Teacher

Kate has been involved in triathlon since 2000 and believes it was a natural fit for her. “Sport was natural growing up with the likes of athletes LJ Van Zyl and Johan Cronje back in Bloemfontein. I started running and swimming at school and then triathlon became a part of my life,” says Kate, who juggled races and training while studying a B.Com in Human Resource Management at the University of the Free State. Having completed her studies in 2005, she turned pro, later basing herself out of Australia for a number of years.

Now back in SA, Kate was sidelined by a foot injury for the last few months, but she approached the recovery process conservatively so she could be in shape for the Games. With morning and afternoon sessions at the High Performance Centre in Pretoria with coach Lindsay Parry, she has learnt to listen to her body and has a lot more freedom when she feels there is a specific session she should work on. “There is room to adjust, and before competitions, we learn to limit distractions and manage recovery.”

Giving Back

With the Games her foremost priority right now, Kate is also planning to give back to the sport when she decides to hang up the goggles, helmet and running shoes. “Depending on my future results, I may stay in the sport longer – I’m still in for the 5150 events and competing for fun, but it’s exciting to get that social and work balance I’ve never had. More importantly, though, right now there is no series in SA, and it’s difficult because tri is still a self-funding sport. I want to work with corporates to harness the tri potential in SA, and I want to help and plan these programmes. It’s moulded me for the rest of my life, so I want to give back – and we should be able to take a talented squad to every Games.”