Main photo: World Triathlon

By Kent Gray/ in Napier
Ainsley Thorpe is taking a less is more mantra into what she hopes will be an altogether more memorable Olympic year than her Tokyo experience three years ago.

With Kiwi No.1 Nicole van der Kaay opting to bypass the Oceania summer to train under a new coach in Portugal, Thorpe is the top-ranked Kiwi in a stacked women’s field for World Triathlon Cup Napier this weekend.

It’s the first of just three race weekends the 26-year-old Cambridge-based Aucklander has pencilled in for the early part of the season, a new slimmed down race strategy focused on nailing qualification for Paris courtesy of quality results but not over racing before the XXXIII Olympiad in the City of Light.

RELATED: World Triathlon Cup Napier – Everything you need to know including how to watch on TVNZ+

“Obviously I need to qualify and be selected for Paris but the ultimate goal is Paris,” Thorpe told

‘I feel like we always peak a bit earlier than most Europeans so we really want to nail the summer racing and then get another massive [training] block in before I head to Europe.”

In addition to World Cup Napier, Thorpe will race the World Triathlon Championship Series (WTCS) opener in Abu Dhabi on March 8-9 and the Oceania Standard Distance Championships in Taupo on April 14 before putting her race suit on ice.

Photo: Simon Dawson.

Thereafter her next race is likely to be WTCS Cagliari on May 25-26, the day before the Olympic qualification window closes. The quality over quantity decision may even extend to bypassing WTCS Yokohama, another key Olympic qualifier, earlier in May.

It’s a calculated risk designed to have Thorpe fizzing for Paris.

The world No.42 crashed out of her debut Olympics on the wet and slippery roads that confronted the women in Tokyo in July 2021. Coupled with the year-long pandemic delay from 2020 and New Zealand’s ho-hum 12th place in the Mixed Relay, it wasn’t the dream Thorpe envisaged.

That’s promoted the rethink for 2024 in consultation with coach Bruce Hunter.

“There were so many people in different situations going into that Olympics. I mean we hadn’t really raced [due to the pandemic] and a lot of the European countries had,” Thorpe says of Tokyo.

“People say Tokyo was its own Olympics and hopefully Paris will be a whole lot better experience and just based off the test event I did last year, it kind of got my bad Tokyo memories out of the way and has me focusing on the new positive ones I produced in Paris last year.”

Thorpe was the best of the Kiwis in 17th place at the Olympic test event last August, arguably her top result of 2023 after she had overcome a DNF in Wanaka with silver behind van der Kaay at World Cup New Plymouth in March. 

A podium repeat on the tight and technical venue switch to Napier will be no cinch, even given van der Kaay’s absence. Thorpe is ranked 6th for Saturday’s individual sprint (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run) behind Gina Sereno (USA), Xinyu Lin (China), Zsanett Kuttor-Bragmayer (Hungary) and Australia’s Natalie van Coevorden.

She can also expect pressure from Kiwi team-mates Olivia Thornbury and Brea Roderick who were 3rd and 8th respectively in last Friday’s Oceania Cup Wanaka while Thorpe was putting the finishing touches on her prep training in Cambridge alongside a group of visiting French athletes and the likes of Canadian Desirae Ridenour. Ridenour, who was 9th in Wanaka and will race Napier, is the girlfriend of Thorpe’s bother Trent who one of the 11 Kiwis on the men’s start list for Saturday, spearheaded by Tokyo bronze medalist Hayden Wilde.

“I just want to go out there and do what I can and hopefully all that summer base training I’ve been doing in Cambridge with the [French] boys will pay off,” Thorpe said.

“There’s plenty of talent. I don’t know, what I am I ranked in the world, 40-something [42nd] and I’m only 6th for this weekend. That just shows how stacked this weekend’s field is.”


Saturday, February 24
12:45pm: Oceania Junior (U19) Championship – Women
2:30pm: Oceania Junior (U19) Championship – Men
4:15pm: World Triathlon Cup Napier – Elite women
6:15pm: World Triathlon Cup Napier – Elite men

Sunday, February 25
8am: NZ Sprint Triathlon Championships (Tri NZ Suzuki Series)  – Men (8am), women (8:05am), teams (8:10am)
10:30am: Oceania Junior (U19) Mixed Relay Championships|
12:30pm: World Triathlon Mixed Relay Series Napier (Elite)

How can I watch?
Entry is free for those in the Hawke’s Bay. The elite and Oceania races will also be streamed live on TVNZ+ for those unable to attend. Details of how you can watch all the world class racing can be found HERE.

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