Photos: Sean Beale/

By Kent Gray/ in Wanaka
For as long as Olivia Thornbury is studying to become a doctor, triathlon will just have to take what it can get from the talented Southlander.

Friday night was one of those precious moments, a bronze medal at Oceania Cup Wanaka an impressive return from her first race in a Tri NZ race suit since Thornbury made her World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) debut in Hamburg last July.

Italy’s Ilaria Zane comfortably captured gold from Jolanda Annen (SUI) but both were perhaps lucky Thornbury bungled racking her bike in T2.

The 25-year-old Otago Medical School student lost seven places fumbling about with her bike but showed impressive footspeed to make up eight places on the run for bronze.

“Unfortunately, I buggered that one up a little bit and that put me on the back foot on the run but managed to slowly pull that back,” Thornbury told

“It would have been helpful in the end if I didn’t have that muck up but that is part of racing and I’ll learn from it for next time.

“Yeah, it is pretty awesome, I’m pretty happy with that. I always thought the first race would be a little rusty but I’m pretty stoked tonight.”

Thornbury’s 16:44 split for the 5km run was the day’s fastest by 15 seconds from Zane. It stung a little later to learn she finished, you guessed it, 15 seconds behind the Italian given all those lost seconds in T2.  

“My running has been coming along quite nicely so I was pretty confident going onto the run, learning to back myself a little bit more, so yeah I was pretty happy with that, slowly picked them off.”

Next up is World Triathlon Cup Napier next weekend. Thornbury still has to juggle study with training but hinted on Friday that she’ll be forced to reckon with throughout the Oceania season, even against those who are solely swim-bike-run focused.

Indeed, Brea Roderick got her chance to excel at WTCS level in Montreal last year when study got in Thornbury’s way and made every post a winner. Roderick has gone on to establish herself as the Kiwi No.3 but Thornbury reminded everyone of the promise that landed European Cup bronze in Holten before her eye-opening 44th place at the World Triathlon Sprint & Mixed Relay Championships in Hamburg with her bronze to Roderick’s 8th placing,

Thornbury lead Roderick early on the bike leg.

“[Today is a] good start before next weekend, good to blow the cobwebs out and get those mistakes out of the road. Hopefully I can learn from that and not have that again,” Thornbury.

“I’ve planned up to Sydney, the Wollongong World Cup, doing all those World Cups and Oceania Championships, just see how I go, put my best foot forward and go from there, I just want to do my best.”

Full results HERE

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