Photos: Sharon Brophy Photography and Andrea Airey

By Kent Gray/ in Oxford
Danielle Donaldson has hailed the friendship of ‘famous training buddy’ Rebecca Clarke after taking another confidence boosting step towards her goal of the pro-life with victory in the Sunday’s OxMan triathlon.

The Wanaka-based 27-year-old produced a compelling siren to finish line performance to win the half in 4:52:57, capitalising on the glorious North Canterbury conditions to beat Bridget Kiddle home by nearly nine minutes.

It was a maiden OxMan tri title for Donaldson after the Tri Wanaka club member captured the Aquabike prize last year when injury ruled out running. OxMan has indeed proved a happy place for the former Aucklander who finished third behind champion Clarke at the race in 2021. She quickly struck up a friendship with the Ironman, PTO and Challenge star that flourished beyond training inspirational.

“I actually met my famous training buddy, Bec Clarke, here two years ago, she did OxMan and yeah, she’s down in Wanaka with me and is the most lovely person I’ve ever met,” Donaldson said before cheering another pal, Zoe MacClure, across the line in third on Sunday.

Photo: Sharon Brophy

“I started out as a nobody in triathlon and she [Clarke] just was like, oh, come out and do some rides with me and now I consider her one of my best mates which is absolutely awesome. Heaps of cool triathletes down in Wanaka actually, like pretty awesome place to be, great training ground.”

After studying at Canterbury University for four years, Donaldson shifted to Wanaka and the Southern inspiration has her eyeing a tilt at the pro tri life. While she describes herself as a “part-time structural engineer” nowadays, there is still a way to go to make it on pro triathlon’s cut throat long distance circuit as her 38th placing in the 25-39 age group at the Ironman 70.3 Worlds in Lahti, Finland in late August, highlighted. Still, there were encouraging early season signs at OxMan, not least the time she left out on the bike course as she struggled to transfer power courtesy of a new set of shorter cranks.

That can be tweaked moving forward but what pleased her most after “my worst bike ever” was a 1:39:10 split for the 21.1km half marathon, the run a definite work on as she’s come back from injury. That’s what the change of bike set up was all about as her previous, longer cranks were contributing to hip issues which manifested themselves into wider leg issues.

Photo: Andrea Airey

“Really enjoyed doing the Aquabike [last year], those are my strengths anyway, swimming and biking. But yeah, cool not to be injured this year and do the full half and I just did the best run of my life so happy with that,” Donaldson said before elaborating on her upcoming summer race schedule.

“I’ve got Taupo 70.3 in two weeks, that’s sort of an A race, looking at hopefully doing well in that, qualifying for Worlds next year [back in Taupo in December 2024]. I’m doing Tauranga half [January 20] for the first time, racing in the new ‘Open’ category, and then Challenge Wanaka in February [17th] and really looking to continue to improve my run and hopefully go pro would be awesome.”

As Donaldson has yet to turn pro, she has the option to take up a spot at the 2024 World Triathlon Multisport Championships in Townsville next August with OxMan the primary Tri NZ Suzuki Series qualifier for the Queensland worlds.

OxMan Women 2023
1. Danielle Donaldson – 4:52:57
2. Bridget Kiddle – 5:01:43
3. Zoe MacClure – 5:04:28

Full OxMan results here

Photo: Andrea Airey

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