By Kent Gray/
Saxon Morgan
is after affirmation of his sudden form resurgence at the Oceania Sprint Championships while trainee doctors Olivia Thornbury and Janus Staufenberg will both seek fast starts to a three-race block designed to keep their names in lights.

For others in the field at Sunday’s World Triathlon Cup Hong Kong, Paris Olympic Games qualification looms large. For the Kiwi trio, perhaps save for Paris longshot Thornbury, the sprint race is a chance to continue learning and climbing the ranking points ladder with future Commonwealth Games and LA ’28 Olympic in mind.

Sunday’s races will be screened live on World Triathlon’s streaming platform, Triathlonlive.TV, with the women set to go at 9:30am (2:30pm NZT) and the men at 11:05am (4pm NZT). As a reader, you’re eligible for a 20% discount on an annual Triathlonlive.TV pass by clicking HERE. Use code ‘NZ2024’.

Thornbury is the 4th ranked Kiwi in the World Triathlon Rankings in 111th place behind Nicole van der Kaay (24th), Ainsley Thorpe (41st) and Brea Roderick (76th). But that is, arguably, more to do with a lack of racing at the top level as she prioritises her medical studies.

Thornbury contemplates her top 10 at World Triathlon Cup Napier last month. Photo: Ben Lumley/World Triathlon

While van der Kaay and Thorpe are the Kiwi female favourites for Paris, the 25-year-old Southlander will want to stay in the selectors thinking by continuing her strong start to 2023 after claiming Oceania Cup bronze in Wanaka and finishing 9th, just a place shy of Thorpe, at World Cup Napier later in February.  She’ll get further chances to do just that at the Oceania Triathlon Championships (Standard Distance) in Taupo on April 14 and World Triathlon Cup Wollongong (April 20).

Thornbury will face oodles of class in Hong Kong with Summer Rappaport to wear the No.1 bib after finishing 11th in last year’s WTCS rankings. A crash in Super League denied the American a chance to race the points rich WTCS Grand Final in Pontevedra so her final ranking in 2023 was perhaps unflattering.

The race to represent Team USA in Paris is one of the intriguing subplots in Hong Kong. Rappaport, Kirsten Kasper, Erika Ackerlund and Katie Zaferes are all desperate for points to join the already qualified Taylor Knibb while Taylor Spivey and Qwen Jorgensen head to the World Triathlon Indoor Cup Lievin in France next weekend.

Thornbury will also be wary of Italian Ilaria Zane who so impressively won Oceania Cup Wanaka.

Morgan was an impressive 5th at the Oceania Sprint Championships in Devonport. Photo: Delly Carr/AusTriathlon

Morgan, meanwhile, is eyeing the XXXIV Los Angeles Olympics with renewed relish after placing 5th in a quality field at the Oceania Sprint Championship in Devonport on March 16. It was the Christchurch 23-year-old’s best performance since finishing 8th in the U23 race at the World Triathlon Championships in Abu Dhabi in November 2022 and will give him hope of eclipsing his 22nd place at World Triathlon Cup Napier last month.

Morgan is ranked 39th to Staufenberg’s 38th for Hong Kong with the duo sitting 110th and 108th respectively in the World Triathlon Rankings, 5th and 6th of the Kiwis behind Hayden Wilde (No.1), Dylan McCullough (22nd), Tayler Reid (44th) and Trent Thorpe (78th).

Like his partner and fellow Otago Medical School student Thornbury, Staufenberg is taking a temporary break from the text books to race Hong Kong, Taupo and Wollongong.

Staufenberg en route to Hawk Bay during last month’s World Triathlon World Cup Napier

The Dunedin-based Wanaka 24-year-old showed his potential with a top campaign during the last European summer, highlighted by victory at European Cup Holten and 27th at the World Triathlon Sprint & Relay Championships in Hamburg later in July.

Staufenberg will be keen to recapture some of that form after not quite firing at his two Oceania starts earlier this year – 6th and 23rd at Oceania Cup Wanaka and World Triathlon Cup Napier respectively.

Japan’s Kenji Nener wears the No.1 bib in a 64-strong field. Watch also for a trademark swim lead out from Hungarian Márk Dévay while Luke Willian and Jacob Birtwhistle are match hardened from the recent Oceania campaign, finishing second and third respectively behind McCullough.

American Matthew McElroy, 14th at the Paris Olympic Test Event, will look to kick on from his silver in his last start at the 2023 Santiago Pan American Games.

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