Just like London buses, you wait ages for major triathlon events to come to the capital, and then two come at once! Just six days after the inaugural Scorcher half Ironman, the national Olympic distance (1.5km swim/ 40 km bike/ 10 km run) championships returned to their spiritual home of Waitangi Park, after a few years of being based in Auckland. In the past the “nationals” (also the major qualification event for world championship selection) have taken place in March, but this season Triathlon NZ have revamped the calendar.
Numbers participating were a bit disappointing, with some age groups (especially in the women’s grades) having particularly low turnouts, although a few age groups were strong in both depth and quality.
Conditions were perfect, with cloud (so no glare when swimming) and very light southerlies. The swim was lovely and calm, the four-lap bike course on closed roads along Evans Bay generally uneventful (although a bit of drizzle about 80 minutes into the event did create some challenges when cornering), and the two-lap run along Oriental Parade and round Point Jerningham was flat and fast, with a decent number of spectators by Waitangi Park to give everyone a morale boost.
It was all about the women, with the top performances by Scottish members being gold medals for Becky Hawthorne (Junior 16-19, in her first ever race over the distance, 2 hrs 32 mins with a 46.17 run) and Helen Bradford (45-49, 2 hrs 26 mins, with a 45.57 run). Other medals came courtesy of Tricia Sloan (bronze in the 50-54s, 2 hrs 39, with a 44.26 run), Todd Maddock (bronze 40-44s with an excellent 37.29 run) and John Skinnon, who showed he is heading back to top form with bronze in the competitive 65-69 age group (2 hrs 30 mins, with a 45.45 run).
James Turner picked up 6th in the highly competitive 50-54 age grade (9 guys in 2.15 or quicker) in 2.12 (38.30 run), Andy Ford’s powerful 36.52 run brought him through to 6th in the 30-34 age grade in 2.15, and Paul Rodway’s 2.41 (49.20 run) got him 7th in the 65-69s age group.
Lots of other Wellingtonians did a great job on the day (notably picking up all three podium spots in the incredibly tough F25-29 age grade), alongside the usual outstanding turnout of Technical Officials and volunteers (coordinated by Nat Hardaker, who wasn’t able to race) to help ensure things ran smoothly on the day.
It was also rumoured Irene Van Dyk, after her first ever tri photo bombed John S and Kirsty.....
Hopefully the relatively low numbers won’t be a barrier to Wellington remaining the host for this important event in future years.