Henri Schoeman records fairytale win at Arena Games Sursee
After an injury and illness plagued couple of seasons, South Africa’s Henri Schoeman continued his emotional return to the pinnacle of racing with a gold medal at Arena Games Triathlon powered by Zwift Switzerland. The 31-year-old 2016 Olympic Games bronze medallist took control on the second of the day’s three stages, beating a stacked field of stars in the process and laying down a major marker ahead of the Arena Games 2023 final in London on April 8. France’s Maxime Hueber-Moosbrugger took second, with Swiss racer Simon Westermann pleasing the home crowd with bronze position.
“It feels amazing. I first want to thank the crowd out here who have pushed us to our absolute limits – the arena here is so compact and electrifying. It’s my first win since all of the injuries and setbacks I’ve faced, and I’m so thrilled with my performance. I’m loving my life right now”, said Schoeman after his emotional win.
Switzerland made its long-awaited Super League debut, with a sell-out crowd filling the CAMPUS Sursee Sportarena on the banks of Lake Sempach. The action saw a mass start eight length 200m pool swim in a 25m and not 50m pool (a first for the Arena Games), before a 4km Zwift bike leg and a 1km run on an elliptical running machine. Stage 2 would reverse that order, beginning with a 1km mass start run before a 4km bike and a 200m swim. The concluding Stage 3 would open with a Pursuit Start 200m swim, before the 4km bike leg and final 1km run to crown the overall winner.
Super League regular Nieschlag had the lead by the halfway mark of the Zwift bike leg, with Italy’s 22-year-old Nicolò Strada (who finished third at Arena Games Triathlon London in 2022), moving into second. But it would be Nieschlag who’d be first into T2.
Onto the 1km run and the noise in the packed arena went up a notch as Swiss athlete Simon Westermann, 24, moved into pole position just ahead of Meeusen as Nieschlag dropped back to fifth. The stage win would be Westermann’s ahead of Schoeman and Meeusen, with just 12secs separating the whole field in possibly the tightest event in Arena Games’ history.
The reverse order Stage 2 started back on the run, with France’s Maxime Hueber-Moosbrugger, 26, pushing the 21km/h pace at the front of the field and establishing a 2sec gap over Stapley by T1.
With spots at the Arena Games Triathlon 2023 finale in London up-for-grabs, the 4km bike leg continued to see a relentless pace on display. The big news was Super League star Nieschlag dropping to the final position as Hueber-Moosbrugger continued to lead the field, with Germany’s Lasse Nygaard Priester, 27, moving into second and then first before the 4km mark.
First to reach the halfway point of the 200m swim was Schoeman, one of triathlon’s very best swimmers, with just 5secs separating the top five and only 20secs the whole field. Schoeman’s advantage was 4secs over Hueber-Moosbrugger by the finish, with Nieschlag moving back into the reckoning by taking third. It was all to play for on the deciding Stage 3.
After Schoeman’s 8sec headstart, little separated the field on the 200m swim’s pursuit start, with just 7secs between the next seven athletes. Those margins were largely intact at the end of the swim, with Westermann managing to move into second ahead of the chasing pack.
The 4km bike leg began with Schoeman, in just his second-ever Arena Games race, having a 10sec lead over the field. Nieschlag, knowing his short-course run performance has dipped since his move to long-course racing, moved into second, but only slightly managed to chip away at Schoeman’s lead. The South African had an 8sec advantage at T2.
After a seamless transition, Schoeman was first onto the 1km run ahead of Nieschlag and Westermann, his advantage extending to 12secs. That 21km/h pace returned but Schoeman was making it look effortless, striding to victory as Westermann and Hueber-Moosbrugger battled for the remaining podium spots. The French star was just too strong, but Westermann held off Strada to take bronze ahead of a rapturous home support.