Triathlon champ hopes to shake SA colours

South African Konrad Marais eager to represent Namibia
Konrad Marais has come to love the Land of the Brave and hopes to become a flagbearer for the country in his sport code.
Iréne-Mari van der Walt
Iréne-Mari van der Walt

Konrad Marais proved his worth in triathlon after he took first place in the Africa Triathlon Championships, but explains that he initially took up the sport due to his late beginnings.

“Triathlon was a last resort for someone who started too late but still has a desperate need to be the best - I have a drive to compete,” he says.

Triathlon is a sport which challenges its athletes to swim, cycle and run back to back. Great emphasis is placed on what is known as the transition phase, when athletes must transition from swimming to cycling and cycling to sprinting as quickly as possible in order to prevent the loss of valuable time.

However far behind Marais may have been, his blood ties may have made this integration easier. He explains: “My father did triathlon for 10 years - he was big in his Ironman days, but I wouldn’t say he introduced me to the sport.” Nonetheless, Konrad’s father, Jean Marais, holds his ground in the sport, as he placed 12th in the ITU World Triathlon Grand final.

“I think triathlon is a wonderful way of pushing yourself,” says the younger Marais, who found a love for sport amongst a myriad of sport codes he competed in during his school years.

“I always did endurance sports and I wasn’t always the best, but I was constant,” he says. Marais also participated in swimming, rugby and fencing while at school in Pretoria, South Africa.

Moving to Namibia

Marais is a South African and says his decision to relocate to Namibia surprised even himself.

However, as Marais started his career after graduating from university, it wasn’t long before he found himself in Namibia.

“My dad bought land here and he spent a lot of time here, so when I applied to do my articles, I applied in Windhoek and Durban. I initially took the job in South Africa but after about a week the tension of traffic and the noise got to me and I decided to cancel with the firm in South Africa and take up the job offer in Windhoek, which luckily was still valid,” Marais, who works full-time as a lawyer, explains.

Despite the slower pace of Namibian life, Marais admits that the “ Sodom and Gomorrah aspect” of big-city life became overwhelming.

“I started experiencing anxiety for the first time in my life,” he says. Now, Marais hopes to shake his South African colours to represent the Land of the Brave. “I love Namibia, so I would love to represent the country. It would make me proud and that would mean I don’t have to travel to South Africa every year to compete in the SA championships, I can do it here,” he says.

In order to represent Namibia, Marais has to obtain Namibian citizenship and not represent South Africa in a sport for two years, but Marais is adamant that he would represent Namibia in this sport code.

A dream for the youth

Despite not having Namibian colours, Marais hasn’t let that stop him from making a difference in the Namibian triathlon sphere.

Currently he serves on the assistant executive committee for the Namibian Triathlon Federation and dreams of creating a greater platform for Namibian athletes to compete.

Most of our Namibian athletes are good in the separate sport codes, but they lack experience in the transitions and there isn’t the nail biting sense of urgency during the transitions here, which our athletes will only learn from experienced competition,” he says.

Marais has high hopes for triathlon in Namibia. “Namibia has earned the rights to host the duathlon championships for two years in a row now, because people from all over the continent love coming here, and the Namibians are so friendly that they want to come back,” he says.

Konrad’s father, Jean Marais, initially had mixed feelings over his son’s decision to take up the sport but quickly became proud of him. “It’s a great sport, but I had mixed feelings - of course you worry about him having to take a bicycle out on the road, but you cannot adapt your life to be completely safe,” he says.

He is fond of how Konrad’s personality shines through, even in his sport. “Triathlon has a lot of technical rules and one of them is that you are not allowed to remove your helmet before releasing your bike. In his first race, Konrad removed his helmet before releasing his bike, and they penalised him for it. During the next race, he decided not to take off his helmet at all and ran the whole way with it on,” he recounts.