Henri Schoeman delivered the performance of his life on Thursday, bagging South Africa’s eighth medal of the Rio Olympics.
The 24-year-old triathlete was in a 10-man lead group coming out the water, and stuck with the lead peloton on the bike before finding himself out alone in third place on the run.
While he was unable to stick with the relentless pace of British brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee, he held on to step on the podium.
“This has been a dream my whole life,” Schoeman said.
“There are no words. I’m just trying to let it sink in. It’s unbelievable.”
Richard Murray, the more favoured athlete in the SA team, was more than a minute behind at the final transition, and, while he stormed through on the run, he crossed the line in fourth place, seven seconds behind his compatriot as he missed out on a medal.
Alistair Brownlee defended his title in 1:45:01 in tough conditions, with the race held in 26-degree heat and 81% humidity. His sibling, Jonathan, was seven seconds behind as he grabbed the silver medal.
Schoeman was a further 36 seconds off the pace, completing the contest (1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run) in 1:45:43.
Elsewhere on the 13th day of the Games, Bridgitte Hartley took eighth spot in the women’s K1 500m sprint canoe B final, ending 16th overall in the event.
Cyclist Kyle Dodd narrowly missed out on a place in the men’s BMX semifinals, ending sixth in his quarterfinal after finishing tied on points with three other riders.
Dodd was fifth, fifth and sixth in his three quarter-final runs, and lost out on a place in the penultimate round based on top run positions.
Sunette Viljoen, meanwhile, was hoping to add another medal to the nation’s tally of one gold, five silver and two bronze, lining up in the women’s javelin throw final in the early hours of Friday morning.