Hansen in action during the Mixed Relay at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Credit: Ben Lumley/World Triathlon.
By Kent Gray/Triathlon.kiwi
After nearly two decades building a reputation as one of the most revered short-course triathletes on the planet, Andrea Hansen is loving the transition from elite sportswoman to “world-class mum” in training.
The Christchurch 40-year-old has officially called time on her glittering 18-year-old career, sensationally ignited when she became U23 world champion in Japan in September 2005 – just seven months after taking up the sport.
Hansen (née Hewitt) went on to represent New Zealand at three Olympic and four Commonwealth Games and will have her rich contribution to the sport celebrated on the sidelines of World Cup New Plymouth this weekend.
After a guest star stint commentating on Sunday’s elite women’s and men’s races for the global Triathlonlive.tv stream, the former World No.1 will be guest of honour at a dinner being hosted by Triathlon New Zealand later in the evening.
Her family and coach, Dr. John Hellemens, will be among those on hand to honour Hansen who choose last July’s Birmingham Commonwealth Games, where she finished 18th individually and 4th as part of the NZL team in the Mixed Relay, as her swansong.
“I was training for the Tokyo Olympics [originally scheduled for 2020] but when the world turned upside down with COVID, it just worked out it was a good time to start a family,” Hansen said.
Daughter Flossie arrived in early 2021 and Hansen expertly juggled motherhood and training for Birmingham.
“After Flossie, I didn’t know how that was going to go but I always thought I would get back into some sort of sport and it just happened that the Commonwealth Games was the next year so it all worked out.”
Sport and fitness will always play a part in Hansen’s life but Flossie, just turned two, is the immediate priority.
“I was just talking about this with someone this morning and they were saying, after being a world-class triathlete, you’ve decided to try to become a world-class mum so that’s what I’m trying to do,” Hansen said.
“I’ll definitely keep being fit. Not going to stop and do nothing, just for health and fitness, just keep moving, I’ll still be out there. It’s pretty hard to stop after training three times a day, every day.”
Hansen swam competitively and represented New Zealand at surf lifesaving in the early 2000s. Her introduction to triathlon came when she went to see Dr. Hellemans who had founded Tri NZ’s HP program in 1996. That led to Hansen racing the nationals in Hawke’s Bay in February 2005 where she qualified for the worlds in Gamagōri, Japan that September.
“Probably my first world champs in Gamagōri because, like, I was so new to it,” Hansen answered when pressed for career highlights.
“I remember being interviewed beforehand and pretty much every question I answered was with ‘I don’t know’ because I actually didn’t know. And when I won the race, the U23 world champs, I remember Bevan [Docherty] telling me triathlon is not that easy, this is a hard sport.
“Some of the girls had already been to the Olympics in Athens [in 2004], there were definitely favourites for the race and I’d never raced them and I just…I don’t know [how I won]. That was my answer to everything!”
The following March, Hansen’s meteoric rise to stardom continued as she captured the individual bronze medal at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. She finished 3rd in her first World Triathlon Cup race in Mooloolaba a week later and celebrated her maiden World Cup victory at Kitzbühel, Austria in July 2007.
Peppered with much success in the French Grand Prix scene, Hansen went on to become one of the most consistent performers on the World Triathlon circuit. It was highlighted by a purple patch in 2011 when she won three races in a row – the Beijing World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) Final, WTCS Yokohama and World Cup Auckland – and finished second in the overall WTCS.
Hansen went on to finish runner-up in the WTCS again in 2015 and was 3rd in 2009, 2012 and 2014. She memorably rose to World No.1 at the beginning of 2017 with wins in the World Triathlon Abu Dhabi and the World Triathlon Gold Coast.
She recorded 8th, 6th and 7th place finishes at the 2008 Beijing, 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympic Games respectively and added 4th, 13th and 18th places at the 2014 Glasgow, 2018 Gold Coast and 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games to her bronze in Melbourne.
There was also a bronze medal to savour with Ryan Sissons, Tayler Reid and Nicole van der Kaay in the Mixed Relay on the Gold Coast.
“It’s been amazing to represent my country,” Hansen said. “I wouldn’t want to compete for any other country, competing for New Zealand around the world is pretty cool, we’re welcomed everywhere and NZ has a good sporting record so it was great to be part of it.”
On Sunday in New Plymouth, the sport will play the mutual appreciation game with an athlete who has done her sport, and nation, immensely proud.