By Kent Gray/
Paris and Pontevedra loom large in a triathlon year Saxon Morgan hopes will run a whole lot smoother than 2022. That said, the Cantabrian is reluctantly getting used to dealing with form and physical detours on his journey to the big time.

The start of 2023 is a case in point with the 22-year-old heading into Sunday’s Suzuki NZ South Island Standard Distance Championship at the Tuffnell Drainage Canterbury Classic after being felled by COVID-19 during a well-deserved New Year’s break.

It was the last thing Morgan needed after forgetting an otherwise topsy-turvy 2022 with the Kiwi highlight at the World Triathlon Championship in Abu Dhabi in November – a breakout 8th place in the U23 men’s race.

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“This is my second week back post-Covid so just testing where the body is at and stuff. I’m feeling okay now but have had pretty bad fatigue after each training session… but starting to feel more like myself.”

Morgan ran the Night of 5s at AUT Millennium Stadium on Auckland’s North Shore on December 17, finishing 15th in the A race in 14:47:74. It wasn’t Morgan’s finest night but a hardly surprising 1:13 down on NZ 5000m champion Julian Oakley given his Abu Dhabi exertion.

Now it’s time to crack into a new tri year where the Paris Olympic test event in August and his final crack in the U23 division at September’s World Triathlon Championship in Pontevedra, Spain are the big goals.

Before that Oceania Cups in Wanaka (Feb. 17) and Taupo (Feb. 25-26 including the Oceania Mixed Relay Championship), the Oceania Sprint Championship in Devonport (March 18), World Cup New Plymouth (March 26) and the Oceania Standard Distance Championship in Port Douglas will serve as an entrée to another season in Europe out of Tri NZ’s Banyoles, Spain training base.

Abu Dhabi was a huge shot of confidence as he prepares for another demanding year.

“It was a pretty cool experience. Obviously worked hard and had a pretty average season last year so it was really nice to finish on a bit of a high and kind of a bit of a confidence boost leading into the 2023 season,” Morgan said.

“A lot of positives to take away from that race, especially aligning with my swimming. Obviously, swimming has been my weakest for my whole triathlon career really so it was definitely a confidence boost coming out with the front guys so I’ll take that in 2023.”

Morgan will target as many World Triathlon Championship Series starts as possible to “just get that experience racing with the big dogs” in addition to a regular diet of World Cup races. The longer-term goal is Pontevedra but before that he hopes to sneak into the Paris test event from August 16-20.

Morgan en route to 8th at the 2022 U23 World Championship in Abu Dhabi

“I’d like to have a good season all round, I’d like to be a bit more consistent throughout the year and get more World Triathlon points and hopefully get myself on the start list at the Paris Olympics test event. It’s a pretty big ask but I’ve got my fingers crossed and then obviously Pontevedra U23s, hopefully improve on my 8th place,” Morgan said.

Sunday’s hilly 1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run test concentrated around Lyttelton’s Corsair Bay is a perfect launch pad, notwithstanding the lingering after effects of COVID.

“It’s a tough course, it’s pretty honest. The bike course is pretty undulating and the run course I think the majority is off road, so it will be a good training day and looking forward to it.”

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