The Next JabuView with Kate Roberts

Kate Roberts (2)Ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games we chatted to a host of South African stars about the challenge that awaited them, one of those stars was Kate Roberts, the triathlete who represented South Africa at the 2008 and 2012 games, as well as medalled in the mixed gender triathlon at the Commonwealth Games in 2014. Kate has now retired from competitive sport and turned her hand to coaching the youngsters of the sport in a bid to build more potential in a growing sport in South Africa. We chatted to Kate about all things sport.

Jabu: Having competed in two Olympic Games and with the 2016 games just around the corner, why have you decided to retire?

Kate: I decided to retire, as I realised that I had achieved all that I wanted to in my 14 year triathlon career. I truly believe that I gave my triathlon career 110%, made the most of every opportunity that was granted to me and endured many sacrifices along the way in order to achieve my goals and dreams. The motivation to continue was not what it used to be and after winning the silver medal in the mixed team relay at last years Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, I wanted to end on a high and realised that it was then the perfect opportunity to say good bye and leave a lasting legacy. I also wanted to start the next phase of my life and get involved in a career in triathlon coaching and management and be able to spend more quality time with family and friends.
Jabu: We have loved watching the progress of your career and will definitely miss watching you compete. As a coach now, what are your goals for the youngsters you are training?
Kate: I am just in the beginning stages of my coaching career and while it is a lot of hard work, I am thoroughly enjoying working with the juniors. My long term goals involve eventually progressing to being a world class junior coach and talent identifier for triathlon. I want to be able to make an instrumental difference to my young athletes triathlon careers by helping them reach their dreams in the sport.  I am also fortunate to be involved with Triathlon South Africa with the managing side of junior teams to events. I have just got back from being the manager for the South African Junior Triathlon Academy team to an African Cup race in Troutbeck, Zimbabwe and then later on in May I am going to manage the South African junior triathlon team to the African Championships in Egypt, which is going to be new and rewarding experience for me.

Kate Roberts  (2)Jabu: How valuable is your experience as an Olympian to your ability as a coach?

Kate: I believe it is extremely valuable, as I have been to the highest level myself and know exactly what is required to reach that ultimate level. I trained under the guidance of Dr Darren Smith, an Australian and world renowned triathlon coach for 5 years and also competed and raced all over the world since the start of my triathlon career. My experience and knowledge in the coaching world definitely needs improvement, but it is an area that I now want to throw my heart and soul into and be the best that I can be.

Jabu: Now that you are out of the way, who do you think will represent SA at Rio 2016?

Kate: Olympic qualification for triathlon involves a two year qualification period during which you have to race World Championship Series and World Cup races all over the world in order to get enough points on the Olympics rankings. The current athletes that are in the best position to qualify include Richard Murray, Henri Schoeman and Gillian Sanders. There are still other athletes that could possibly qualify and are in contention but the problem is that they now need to earn most of their points in the final year of the Olympic qualification process when the fields are extremely competitive.

Jabu: Since we last spoke, you won a Commonwealth Games medal, is that the highlight of your career?

Kate: Yes definitely it was one of the highlights of my triathlon career and a day I will look back on and will cherish for the rest of my life. Achieving my childhood dream and representing South Africa at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and London Olympics in 2012 were also massive highlights and something no one will ever be able to take away from me.

Kate Roberts (3)Jabu: How much did you love the mixed gender race format?

Kate: I absolutely loved it and it is a very exciting format of racing and will just go from strength to strength. It is extremely spectator friendly and having males and females take part in the same race is pretty unique for major games events. It is not a predictable race and anything can happen and this makes it so thrilling for spectators. It is also a very strategic race and you have to identify which is the best leg for each athlete in order to get the best outcome. Unfortunately it won’t be on the programme at the Olympic Games in Rio 2016 but is definitely set to be on the Tokyo 2020 programme.

Jabu: With South Africa set to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games, is that a goal you would set with your team to qualify for?

Kate: Yes, most definitely – it is a fantastic goal for my junior athletes and I hope that some of them will be representing South Africa in 7 years time. It is going to be absolutely amazing to host the Commonwealth Games in Durban, as it is the perfect location for a triathlon event and will be very similar conditions to the Gold Coast in Australia, which will be the host city for the 2018 Commonwealth Games. It is particularly exciting for South Africa and it would be wonderful for me to possibly be involved in those Games in a management role.

Kate Roberts  (1)Jabu: Are you missing the competitiveness of actually competing?

Kate: I definitely do miss certain aspects of competing and training. I miss the camaraderie of training with others and encouraging one anther through tough times. I also miss that wonderful feeling of being so fit and completely in tune with my body. But to be honest I have no regrets about my triathlon career and you certainly won’t ever see a comeback from me in the professional arena. I am enjoying my sleep’s in on a Sunday morning and braai’s and social gathering with friends in my spare time instead of that worrying feeling of always having to train or rest and be strict with my diet. The first few months were tough and a total mind shift, but I am slowly getting used to the new lifestyle.

Jabu: What about any sort of veterans league, does something of that sort exist in tri-athlon?

Kate: Yes it does and one can compete as an amateur known in triathlon as an “age-grouper” all the way until 80+. If I do come back and race in triathlon events, I would like to compete in the half Ironman and Ironman distances but as an age grouper and this will only happen in a few years down the line. My main focus now is starting my coaching career and when things have finally settled I could possibly think about it. I am keen to get into running a marathon and progressing to doing the Comrades marathon (which has always been a dream of mine). I think from next year I will have one goal a year outside of coaching. Next year I may run a marathon, then the next year maybe doing the Otter trail run, the following maybe a Sani to Sea mountain bike race and then a Half Ironman triathlon and so on. There are so many wonderful races to do in South Africa, which are all on my bucket list.

Jabu: Which triathlon would you encourage youngsters trying to get into the sport to attempt?
Kate: I would encourage my youngsters to get involved in the draft legal format of triathlon races which involves road cycling, as this is your entry into the Olympics and my coaching style and model is geared towards this particular format. In South African the long distance format of triathlon and Xterra format of triathlons are extremely popular but competing in these races is not going to get you to the Olympic Games. I would also encourage youngsters to first get into swimming and running and compete in biathlon and biathlete (swimming and running) only. Later on it is easier to add cycling to their programmes once they have mastered swimming and running. When you identify talent for the future, you first look to see if an athlete can swim, then run and only after that if they can cycle.
Kate Roberts  (3)We love sports people that give back to sport, especially with youth after their careers are finished and so will continue to support Kate in her coaching career. You can also follow Kate on Twitter here.
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