By Kent Gray/Triathlon.kiwi in Hamburg
A sensational silver in the mixed relay has seen New Zealand collect a perfect boxed set of medals at the World Triathlon Sprint & Relay Championships in Hamburg.
The Kiwi quartet of Hayden Wilde, Ainsley Thorpe, Tayler Reid and Nicole van der Kaay finished between hosts Germany and Switzerland overnight.
It comes after Hayden Wilde was crowned World Sprint champion and the U23 quartet of Dylan McCullough, Brea Roderick, Saxon Morgan and Hannah Knighton claimed bronze earlier on Saturday. Toss in van der Kaay’s 6th in the individual racing, a likewise season-best 11th for partner Reid and eye-catching debuts for Southland couple Janus Staufenberg and Olivia Thornbury – 27th and 44th respectively – and it has been a magic week for NZL. Benjamin Airey’s 23rd in the U19 Sprint Worlds to kick off the week warrants mention too.
Germany may have snared the automatic Olympic qualification slot on offer in the elite relay but New Zealand put the rest of the world on notice that they’ll be right in the mix for a medal in Paris. Olympic hosts France opted not to race in Hamburg and GBR, who have also already qualified for Paris, started Sunday’s race (early Monday NZT) without kingpin Alex Yee.
Still, silver was no cinch and no less sweet for New Zealand’s awesome foursome.
“I think we’ve been racing with each other since like 2018 so we know each other inside and out and yeah, give us another year under our belt and I think we’ll be definitely in the running for a medal,” Team NZL talisman Wilde told Triathlon.kiwi.
“Yeah, 100 percent, it’s a good team.”
It was Team NZL’s first relay medal since the same quartet clinched gold in Edmonton in 2019. With a huge ranking-points boost given this World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) weekend doubled as the world championships, New Zealand’s relay stocks will soar. While they’re not a lock for Paris just yet, they are as good as and that means two male and two female individual entries as a result.
Wilde had a day of days on Saturday and humbly paid tribute to his team-mates for making a week of weeks for the Tri NZ High Performance program.
“The team carried me today,” the 25-year-old said.
“I had a bit of a low par swim but did good on the bike and the run trying to get us back into contention and we were super lucky to have a strong group with Ainsley. Ainsley did a perfection race with a tactical move and ran brilliantly.
“A little bit of a gap and Tayler was in the lead and was fantastic and then Nicole did what she did and it was really nice to come second. It was really good to have the team carry me and finish off another good day.”
Only five of the lead off males were behind Wilde after the opening swim but the Kiwi No.1 fought back with a dogged, trademark bike-run. Thorpe, 21st individually, saved her best race of the week till last before Reid lifted NZL from 5th to 1st out of the water and left nothing in the tank to tag van der Kaay with the lead.
Pretty much physically spent like Wilde after making it all the way through to Saturday’s individual top-10 shootout, the Taupo 27-year-old was gapped by Laura Lindemann in the water and the German’s were never going to be beaten on home soil. It didn’t stop van der Kaay from riding well, with a little help from the Swiss anchor, before producing a trademark run to seal silver.
“I did what I could. I dropped a bit on the swim but I’m really happy with my bike and run…and also really stoked for the team.”
Game, set and a WTCS performance un-matched in Tri NZ history.