Warrior lifts the bar again – Photos: Jannie du Plessis

VANDERBIJLPRAK. – Close to 5000 adventure-loving South Africans got down and dirty on the banks of the Vaal River for the second event of the 2017 Toyota WARRIOR powered by Reebok. Emerald Resort and Casino was the venue for the showdown in the elite Black Ops event, where the crème de la crème of the obstacle course racing scene battled it out the weekend.

The growing popularity of obstacle course racing in general can be attributed to the outdoor-and-fitness-loving nature of South Africans and the Toyota WARRIOR powered by Reebok. Since its inception five years ago more than 170 000 participants have finished the event and earned the right to call themselves Warriors. There appears to be no slowing down as the organisers of the event keep innovating with new obstacle designs and challenges that keep drawing the participants and spectators.

Each course is purpose built and huge amounts of time, energy and money are invested to deliver adrenaline-fuelled action for all. What really makes these events stand out is the fact that people from all walks of life come together and help each other conquer the various challenges thrown at them.

“We really cater for everyone,” said Fritz Pienaar from the Warrior Company. “We have three distances to choose from in addition to a Warrior Kids course to cater for all fitness levels and ages,” he added. Each distance also has a highly competitive elite category where individuals battle it out for podium glory.

The event delivered some explosive racing as the queen of obstacle course racing, Hanneke Dannhauser (Reebok) burst back onto the scene in a show of sheer dominance to claim back the Women’s Elite Black-Ops title. In the elite men’s race it was a storming Claude Eksteen (Supa Mama) that came home for another win, making it two out of two this season.

Dannhauser had a less than ideal start to the season but her determination and sheer force of will saw her rise to the top step in a near flawless performance. It was always going to be tough in the super-wet conditions on the course spanning 18km and 32 obstacles. Before the start, it was Trish Bahlman’s (Supa Mama) race to lose after her dominating performance in the first round at Legends MX just outside Pretoria.

The women’s race had great depth and OCR (obstacle course racing) stalwarts Domminique D’Oliviera (Liquid Salt), Sabrina Daolio (Battle Rush), Jamie Griffith and Carina Marx (Jeep) exchanged early blows, but Dannhhauser was untouchable in front leaving it to the rest of the women to battle it out for the remainder of the podium positions.

Bahlman ran in second position but flailed over some of the more challenging obstacles in the last kilometres, allowing Daolio to pass and finish in a deserved second place. Rounding off the podium was D’Oliviera, who managed to sneak past a tiring Bahlman at the penultimate obstacle. The win puts Dannhauser right up there with Bahlman in the fight for overall series glory with only a few points separating the duo heading into the next round.

The men’s Black-Ops Elite also saw a classy field line up at the start with the added excitement of the Merchants “Zulu Warriors” in the mix. Prodigies of Dusi legend Martin Dreyer, these youngsters from the Valley of a Thousand Hills in KZN have been racing closer and closer to the front with each event. Adding to their motivation was over 300 Merchants employees entered into the corporate category edging them on.

The return of Thomas van Tonder (Jeep) fondly known as “Beastmode van Tonder” after missing the opening round due to illness, promised to deliver some fireworks.

Pre-race favourite Eksteen with his renowned running prowess proved to be the man to beat though, leading from the start with only Merchants revelation Hlelani Radebe able to stay with him initially. Radebe started to fade as the more physically demanding obstacles saw Van Tonder surge to chase down Eksteen. Behind them it was a ding-dong battle between the Key Health athlete, Louis Smit, Radebe (Merchants), Trevor Lagerwey (Reebok), Kwanda Mhlope (Merchants) and newcomer, Ulrich Carshagen, who finished in that order eventually.

The addition of the Reebok sprint race rallied crowds and spurred more excitement as D’Oliviera repeated her victory from the last event and saw newcomer JP Marais (Besnapped) rise to the occasion to take the solo men’s win. The team event was a spectacular showcase of stamina, skill and determination that saw three mixed teams go head to head in a closely contested final where team Battle Rush emerged victorious.

 

PHOTOS: JANNIE DU PLESSIS – VAALWEEKBLAD

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