In a strategic departure from recent years, the Tri NZ selectors have moved early in naming their starting line-ups for World Triathlon Mixed Relay Series races in Napier on February 25 and Abu Dhabi on March 9 – the last two pre-Paris MR chances for NZL.

Dylan McCullough, Ainsley Thorpe, Tayler Reid and Brea Roderick have been named to race in Napier on Sunday, the day after the opening round of the 2024 World Triathlon Cup season in the Hawke’s Bay tourist hotspot.

In Abu Dhabi, Nicole van der Kaay, currently training with a new coach in Portugal, will replace Roderick in the MR the day after the opening round of the World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) on Yas Island in the UAE capital.

In the current Olympic cycle, NZL MR teams have been named in advance with the starting quartet only decided after individual races are completed at the respective WTCS events the previous day. However, to give Reid and McCullough training certainly in the neck-and-neck race be Kiwi male No.2 behind Hayden Wilde, the selectors have named their Napier and Abu Dhabi line-ups early to give both equal and every last available opportunity to impress. This includes allowing both the opportunity to race in the lead position beginning with McCullough in Napier.

Kiwi No.1 Wilde, who claimed individual bronze at the delayed 2020 Tokyo Games and has met the secondary selection criteria for Paris, has been named as the male reserve for both races. Olivia Thornbury and Roderick will serve the same roles in Napier and Abu Dhabi respectively.

Tayler Reid at the World Triathlon Sprint & Mixed Relay Championships in Hamburg last July. Photo: World Triathlon

Reid, 27, was the Kiwi No.2 in Tokyo, combining with Wilde, van der Kaay and Thorpe to help NZL finish 12th, and has more MR experience. However, McCullough, 23, impressed with a series of career best results in 2023 including a season-ending silver medal at World Triathlon Cup Miyazaki in Japan. He repeated the silver medal effort at the Oceania season opener in Wanaka last Friday evening.

New Zealand’s stellar MR form in 2023, including second place to Germany at the World Triathlon MR Championships in Hamburg last July, means NZL is a currently ranked 4th of the Olympic MR rankings and is a lock for a MR start in Paris on August 5. This includes two quota spots for each of the male (July 30) and female (July 31) individual races as a result.

Dylan McCullough. Photo/Delly Carr

While Wilde and van der Kaay have both met the secondary criteria (2 x WTCS top 8s) within the Paris 2024 Nomination Policy, there are still three more opportunities for this to be achieved through WTCS individual racing in Abu Dhabi (March 8), Yokohama (May 11/12) and Cagliari (May 25/26).

Tri NZ is still hopeful of securing a third quota sport in the individual men’s race in Paris.

To achieve that, NZL needs three athletes ranked in the top 30 at the end of the qualification period (May 27). With Wilde the current Olympic No. 2, and McCullough and Reid, at 32nd and 55th respectively there is work to be done through the Oceania racing window in February/March.

Travis White, Tri NZ’s General Manager of Performance, said providing athletes with certainty around planning and opportunities to race led to the decision to confirm the race teams earlier than in previous years.

“There are a limited number of opportunities to race MR and the Olympic qualification pathway is clearly geared toward success in the MR event,” White said.

“Therefore, to give our athletes certainty around racing and to ensure the Tri NZ selection commission can make informed decisions come June, we have a high level of comfort confirming these decisions early.

“By March 25 we will know about the MR quotas and by May 27 we will know if we have been successful in gaining any additional spots. Then it’s up to the selection commission to nominate the NZ Olympic Committee and ideally we will be in a position to confirm the Paris team in early June.”

The Tri NZ selectors have also named their team for the March 17 Oceania MR Championships in Devonport with Trent Thorpe, Roderick, Saxon Morgan, and Eva Goodisson given the nod.

The Tasmania race carries Olympic ranking points but is not a nominated event as part of the Tri NZ Paris Nomination Policy. Even if it was, the maximum points available in Devonport would not supplant the lowest counting result already achieved in the current window.

Tri NZ Pre Paris Olympic Games Mixed Team Relay Selections

WT MR Series Napier
February 25, 2024
Male: Dylan McCullough, Tayler Reid
Female: Ainsley Thorpe, Brea Roderick
Reserves: Hayden Wilde, Olivia Thornbury

WTCS MR Abu Dhabi
March 9, 2024
Male: Dylan McCullough, Tayler Reid
Female: Ainsley Thorpe, Nicole van der Kaay
Reserves: Hayden Wilde, Brea Roderick.

Oceania MR Championships (Devonport, Tasmania)
March 17, 2024
Male: Saxon Morgan, Trent Thorpe
Female: Brea Roderick, Eva Goodisson

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