Photos: World Triathlon
By Kent Gray/Triathlon.kiwi in Paris
After two false starts through no fault of his own, Dylan McCullough is finally poised to make his senior Mixed Relay debut for New Zealand in Sunday’s Paris Olympic test event – but there could be yet another plot twist.
The swim phase of Saturday’s World Triathlon Para Cup Paris was canned due to adverse water quality samples taken from the River Seine, raising the prospect of the Mixed Relay also becoming a duathlon.
A final decision will be made at 4am Sunday local time (2pm NZT) but either way, New Zealand will be represented by Tayler Reid, Nicole van der Kaay, McCullough and Brea Roderick.
The race is live on World Triathlon’s subscription service, Triathlonlive.tv, from 6pm NZT Sunday.
Kiwi No.1 Hayden Wilde was not considered for selection on medical grounds after his frustrating WD in Friday’s individual race, courtesy of a hip injury sustained in a slow-speed bike crash en route to the race venue.
Canterbury’s Saxon Morgan has been flown in from Banyoles, Spain – Tri NZ’s European summer base – as the male reserve. Ainsley Thorpe, after her Kiwi best 17th in the women’s race on Thursday, will serve that role for the women to give Roderick a second senior start after she was also anchor as NZL finished fourth at WTCS Sunderland late last month.
Sunday’s line-up means van der Kaay, Roderick and Thorpe will all have had two chances to impress in mixed relays this year.
McCullough, meanwhile, gets his long overdue opportunity after falling ill on the eve of the Sunderland relay, a double blow after he’d earlier been robbed of his debut at WTCS Montreal when the relay there was cancelled due to poor air quality caused by Quebec’s wildfires.
The 22-year-old Cambridge-based Aucklander will be desperate for Sunday’s race to include a swim, one of his strengths, as he looks to atone for a disappointing 41st place in the individual men’s race on Friday.
He’ll draw confidence from an otherwise outstanding 2023, including being part of a quartet including Roderick that claimed bronze at the World Triathlon U23/Junior Relay Championship in Hamburg.
On the back of their senior silver medal at the World Triathlon Relay Championships in Hamburg and the 4th placing in Sunderland, New Zealand will start Sunday’s relay in Paris top of the World Triathlon MR rankings.
With Wilde out and Thorpe rested, it’s a chance to consolidate New Zealand’s likely relay spot for Paris 2024 (with two male and two female individual race slots as a result) and to test combinations to cover any potential injury scenarios for next year.
The cancellation of the swim phase of Saturday’s Para Racing is another blow for Paris 2024 organisers. It comes after World Aquatics cancelled the Open Water World Cup, scheduled for the Seine last weekend.
Paris has spent €1.4 billion (NZ$2.57 billion) cleaning up the famous river in an Olympic legacy programme designed to see three new sites being opened for public swimming in 2025.
World Triathlon issued the following statement early Saturday, local time:
“At the daily meeting to review water quality earlier today at 330am, with representatives from World Triathlon, including the three Technical Delegates and the Medical Delegate, Paris 2024, the City of Paris and the public authorities, we have observed a significant discrepancy between the latest water quality tests provided by the laboratory and the high frequency sample analysers.
“Considering this discrepancy, and not to put the health and safety of the athletes at risk, the decision has been made to cancel all swim activities planned for today. The Para triathlon competition will be contested on a Duathlon format, starting at the scheduled time.
“Paris 2024, the City of Paris and the public authorities are investigating the data discrepancy and will share more details as soon as more information is available.”
World Triathlon’s caution is understandable after 57 athletes – including McCullough and Morgan – complained of diarrhoea and vomiting after the swim phase of the individual races at WTCS Sunderland off Roker Pier.